Shooting from the Thumb

In my first post back its not so much about weather! But weather and space conditions were just right to capture a stunning sky from Caseville, MI (yes during the Cheeseburger Festival) this past weekend. With clear cool skies, a moonless night, and low light pollution I was lucky enough to capture not only the Milky Way, but also the dusty Andromeda Galaxy and a surprise visit by the Aurora!

We started out taking a few test shots from the yard as the evening sky dimmed. Stars were certainly eager to come out! With the leftover sunset light fading, my girlfriend and I went to the Saginaw Bay coastline to try shots along the beach. I had never shot over the water before. I was hopeful that if the water was calm enough, perhaps some shots could reflect the night stars and make something cool. Really didn’t know what to expect but was excited to experiment.

The Milky Way was very visible once eyes adjusted and I initially aimed my T2i with kit lens 18-55mm in that direction to see what we could find. I only brought the T2i on the beach run because it has Magic Lantern installed on the SD card, and thus has an automatic intervalometer on it. I set that up to take repetitive 15sec shots of the milky way as it paced the sky. Bumping the camera to 3200ISO, stars filled the shot, but a shot of the Milky Way at 18mm on a crop sensor camera isn’t too interesting, you need a subject! Cue the aurora borealis…

Aurora over Saginaw Bay

Canon T2i 18-55mm f/3.5 15″ ISO3200 (Click for larger)

Missed the stellar noise control of the 6D on the beach, but the T2i still holds its own with a little post cancellation. I initially didn’t recognize the aurora on the horizon. Dismissed it as fog rolling in off the water. Once I saw vertical pillars, I remembered what this meant. Mid shot of the Milky Way I pivoted the camera down to double check with the long exposure of the camera sensor, and sure enough that was the aurora! After awhile the aurora calmed down and I ached for the 6D back at our current residence. With no moon out and no clouds in sight, the stars were begging for an extended photo shoot. On the walk back I stopped on a back road and just did a sample shot. The scene reminded me of a shot in upstate New York two years ago. Bonus? The Milky Way darting through…

Above the Canopy

Canon 6D 24-105mm f/4 30″ ISO4000 (Click for larger)

As the night wore on, we got tired and pulled some blankets out to just lie in the back yard and keep shooting. Trees can really frame stars well! Looking northeast, the Milky Way pulled up and started to look vertical. Experimenting with some shots, I noticed a dusty ‘star’ which I would later look back in Stellarium and realize it is the Andromeda Galaxy! So many very interesting sights in the sky, and then the aurora cheering from the corner saying, “Look at me too!”

Galactic Gouge

Canon 6D 24-105mm f/4 30″ ISO4000 Andromeda Galaxy in the lower right. (Click for larger)

http://s

Was a great opportunity to capture the night sky in central Michigan and spend the weekend with some great folks! Thanks go out to my girlfriend’s family and grandparents for hosting!

Advertisements

Week Rumblings (Sept. 9, 2013)

Been a rather busy summer. Despite some neat weather events taking place, I’ve either; A: written half of a post and it got past a relevant time to be posted or B: just was flat-out too busy to write something up! Let’s see how far we get this time…

Big story this week is our temperature fluctuations. Around the beginning of September, temps were right on the money and we were getting that nice Fall vibe going on. Beautiful weather topped off last week with highs in the mid-70s and clear skies. It also felt nice and crisp outside, actually noticed this due to slightly increased distance visibility. Our slate had been wiped clean early in the week after some storms, and the humidity had retreated south. However the weather systems had other plans and threw us a curve ball early this week. Today felt like we were back in the middle of summer! Highs topped out at 93F today, dew-point temps were in the mid 60s, so the humidity was around as well. This is all thanks to a ridge that developed early this week which pumped warm, moist, southern air into our region.  Last week with our cooler temperatures, a strong low pressure area over NE Canada provided us with air drawn from the cooler north. So we are seeing tales from both sides, in other words, Fall.

Won't be long before trees start looking a little more diverse in color!

Won’t be long before trees start looking a little more diverse in color! (and the sun setting earlier)

The heat won’t last long. This was the one day that stood out reaching the 90s. We will begin cooling down for the rest of the week, and enjoy a 60s weekend. With this temp swing, there are scattered showers and thunderstorms to go with it. These won’t last past Thursday evening. A few short-range, high-resolution models show a line of showers and thunderstorms developing along the cold front as it slowly drapes across the region. This line will begin in northern Michigan late tonight/early Wednesday morning and progress SE.

Bottom Line: This was a one-off hot day, expect the next two days to be cooling down, but filled with on and off showers. Weekend looks clear and cool. Enjoy temperatures in the mid 60s, 30 degrees cooler than Tuesday!

 

Springing Along

The past few weeks have proved a questionable spring. Temps failing to reach 60, frozen precipitation, a sun missing in action….can’t rely on Midwest weather to be on a consistent time-table.

At least two of these mentioned will be absent this week. Perhaps the most justifying, rain and warmer weather will arrive.

Rain is no stranger so far this Spring. A nice dose of 2+ inches across the region last week has us well above normal for the year(yellow line). Rain is again in the forecast for the week. Rainmakers will appear on Monday/Monday Night, as well as heading into Thursday when conditions may threaten for some severe weather along the Michigan/Ohio border. This will need to be looked at as the week progresses. Through next Saturday, a good two inches of rain could fall in already saturated areas, so flooding will again be possible.

Grand Rapids climate graph of 2013 so far.

Grand Rapids climate graph of 2013 so far.

At least the precipitation will be in liquid form. Sleet was reported in southern Michigan on Sunday, and Central Michigan University campus had a delayed start on Friday thanks to a sleet/freezing rain combination Thursday evening. That event may have been worse had the days leading up to the storm not been above freezing. Ground warmth did a good job at fighting off ice accumulation on surfaces. Trees don’t harbor this ability as well, and ice on the branches was evident while out and about on Friday.

Warm weather will filter into the region with our rain producing pattern. A ridge will amplify over the Midwest, and the warm air will be allowed to travel north. However, with that transport is the mentioned moisture. Temperatures will start in the lower 60s for Monday, and top out in the mid/upper 60s on Thursday. Once we have our stormy day on Thursday, the associated cold front and trough will bring in some cooler spring air, but still above freezing during the day. Yay progress! Hang in there!

When Big and Little Combine… (Feb 7-8, 2013 Snowstorm)

A progressing shortwave, similar to our recent clipper systems, will cut down from Canada Wednesday and merge/phase with a longwave trough moving across the continental U.S. This interaction will ensure moisture transport from the deep south into the Great Lakes region, amplifying precipitation amounts in the area. In this way, it is different than our previous shots of snow.

This is a good example of how tricky weather can be. This past weekend, the storm was little more than a trace-3″ disturbance, now it threatens to bring triple that amount to some locations of the state. Quite interesting to see models not show agreement, and then all of a sudden snap in line with each other. Euro had this solution previously, and the GFS/NAM had come into agreement by Tuesday morning. This actually falls near a date back in 2008 when much of mid-Michigan had a 1-2 punch of snowfall:

On February 6, 2008, a snowstorm hit most of Southeast Michigan. Widespread amounts ranged from 6 inches across central Livingston, Oakland and Macomb Counties to greater than 10 inches for all of the Flint (11.3 inches at Bishop Airport), Tri Cities (12.0 inches at Tri Cities Airport)and Thumb regions. Areas across the southern Saginaw River Valley were dumped with 16 to 18 inches of snow from southwest Saginaw to Birch Run to Vassar. -Detroit/Pontiac National Weather Service

Accumulation wise, central Michigan and lower Michigan look to be in the cross-hairs for persistent snow beginning Thursday morning and continuing through to Friday morning. There is some discrepancy between the GRR(Grand Rapids) and DTX(Detroit/Pontiac) forecast offices. as to what the heaviest snow amounts will be. My experience is that GRR likes to over estimate snow accumulations, and DTX likes to hold a conservative line on accumulations. Typically with winter storms, you get little pockets of the high accumulations, but they are not as widespread as the forecast covers. These higher amounts will also depend greatly on how consistent the early snowfall is. Therefore, I believe isolated areas across mid-Michigan will receive 9″ or 10″, but most locations across mid-Michigan will see 6-8″. Along the I-94 corridor, a good swath of 3-6″ seems like a good bet as they will get high intensity snowfall, but for a shorter duration. With warmer temperatures moving into the region, this snow will have a wetter characteristic compared to lighter dry snows this past week.

Grand Rapids NWS depiction for snow accumulations through Friday morning.dtx

Snow will begin to trickle in Thursday morning for central Michigan. Snow should then continue through the day, intensifying in the afternoon. Overnight, snow will be at the strongest. This leaves little time for morning commuters to have  a clear surface, and roads will likely be covered and treacherous  Further south in the state, the initial snow will not begin until the afternoon/evening on Thursday, thus lower amounts are expected. However, once the main portion of the system is over the region, heavy snows will be occurring  and accumulation rates will be high enough to cause transportation issues.

The Detroit forecast office has a great briefing of timing, expectations, and other facts about the storm available to view in a PDF document online here.