Use of the Forest

Public use of Saginaw Forest is encouraged. Rules for the public's use include (but are not limited to):

Monday, January 30, 2012

Insights about Minnesota lakes: implications about Third Sister Lake

Hopefully, no one is naive to the fact that this winter's temperatures have been far above the long-term average. In fact, although we reached a low of 10F (well below the mean temperature for the night of Jan 29/Jan 30), the trend for most the entire previous week was that of above-average daytime and nighttime temperatures (and 20 of the previous 30 days in January have been above average, too, and today through February 4 is supposed to be not only above average - which is a daytime high temp of 28F - but above freezing, too).

This has meant many things for the forest, but it has meant a very critical thing for Third Sister Lake: the ice cover this year remains un-set: a small open pool remains toward the center of the lake, filling in only when temperatures stay below freezing, but opening again once the snows melt (and the rain falls). It is with this reality in mind that I was interested to read this story from Greg Laden's Blog titled, "Global Warming is Ruining Minnesota Winter".

In the post, Greg points out a few things about Minnesotan lakes that appear to generally hold true for Third Sister Lake as well:
Since the water is cold at the time of freezing, there is more oxygen in some of the lakes than there might otherwise be. Since some of the lake surface is covered with ice but not a thick layer of snow, sunlight gets into the lakes during the winter promoting photosynthesis in the algae living beneath the ice, which enhances oxygen supply. The occasional break-through of ice during the winter, if there is a warm up and sufficient wind, adds additional oxygen.

Meanwhile, if the ice gets thick fast and stays thick, fishermen and women can ice fish early, often, and well into the season. Many Minnesota lakes sport regular fish contests and festival's during the winter that depend on this thick ice.
Third Sister Lake has seen similar trends over the past couple of years, being able to literally support some illegal ice-fishing on the lake. Last year's ice sheet was quite thick and stayed set up well into March (and the ice didn't go away until April). However, there was also a lot of snow; the 8th most snow recorded in Ann Arbor. In some Minnesotan lakes, high levels of snow actually led to fish die-offs:
In recent years, there have been some changes owing to global warming. In a warmer world, there will be some years (but certainly not all) where Minnesota experiences much more snow than it used to. This happened last year. Some lakes had so much snow on them last year that the algal activity was stifled and there was less oxygen in the water, and so those lakes experienced large die-offs of fish. Die-offs happen every year in some lakes, but it seems that the extra snow may have caused more fish to die than usual.
Luckily for the bass and bluegill, this didn't happen in Third Sister Lake, despite the additional snow in the region (although a die-off of Gizzard Shad did occur elsewhere in Southeast Michigan). This could have been due to the existence of groundwater seeps into Third Sister Lake, but this is merely conjecture on my part.

While we cannot definitively say that the 2010-2011 winter's snowfall was caused by global warming, scientists do recognize that, under conditions of global warming, greater amounts of snowfall is expected in regions where snowfall is possible, such as the upper Midwest. (For an explanation as to why, check out this article from Feb 2010.)
In warmer years, such as we are experiencing this winter (and in many previous winters) the lack of thick ice has caused numerous accidents and even fatalities as Minnesotans wandering around on insufficiently frozen lakes, falling in now and then. This, to me, is the ultimate form of Global Warming Denialism. One ignores through ignorance, or willful ignorance, the obvious change in our climate and as a result dies. The number of people falling through ice and drowning in Minnesota seems to be on the rise (though even with increased numbers, the quantities are small enough that a statistical test may be impossible). An excellent indicator of the increased dangers of ice with global warming can be found in what is happening with fishing contests. Contests on lakes in the central part of the state have been repeatedly canceled, and in the case of the Big Lake contests, permanently abandoned as an activity after being canceled several years in a row. In other words, global warming has caused Big Lake to no longer reliably freeze. It's simply a new reality. 
Third Sister Lake has not - yet - set up. There remains a small hole toward the center of the lake, which opens up when the weather climbs above freezing and especially when there is rainfall. It could cause problems not only for the illegal ice-fishers, but also for the ecology classes that come out in February.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Snow flurries throughout today (as well as some snow yesterday) means a light blanket of snow over the ground.

UPDATE (2012-01-29, 11:32PM): Aaaand the weather forecast says rain by Tuesday afternoon. Sheesh! When is the winter going to actually come this year?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

More... rain?

It appears that this year, winter isn't really moving in. It's more like... dropping in on occasional weekends. And now it's raining. Again.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Powder

At some point over the night, we got some snow! I awoke to the sound of the plow clearing away the snow from the road. If I had only woken up an hour earlier, I could have photographed a pristine blanket in front of the cabin. I don't know where the skiers are, but they are likely to come...

Also, with the really cold temperatures from Friday, Third Sister Lake has finally iced over. Whether, though, the ice is thick enough for a person to cross the lake is a different question, though. Still, it is getting (finally) to that time to start keeping an eye out for illegal ice fishing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ground frozen solid

After the drenching rains of the past two days, the ground today is frozen solid. I like this sort of weather: sodden ground freezes solid with ice crystals forming in the sediment, causing it to crunch underfoot in some places and remain obstinately solid in others, all depending on how much water was surrounding what sort of sediment. To me, it's a different (and much smaller) kind of winter wonderland - one that reminds me in some way of winters in Tokyo that would hover around freezing. Stepping on the dirt in the small patch of grass in front of my house or walking through a small field would leave footprints frozen in the ground that looked so much like footprints walking through freshly-poured cement.

I hope, though, that we get more snow that will stay for much longer than a few days... Will winter finally come to stay or might this be a year with a here-and-gone-again winter?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Back and things look...

First, I want thank my friends (Y-J.S., C.J.F., and J.G.) who helped with the maintenance and looking after of the property in my short absence from the property. I wouldn't have been comfortable leaving the place alone without the knowledge that someone(s) would be looking after the place in my absence.

Second, when is winter going to come? I mean, it's mid-January; it shouldn't be raining and in the mid-40s... Ah well. It should cool down tomorrow.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bubo virgianus sighting

I thought that it was a great horned owl, but apparently the Stringid that has been haunting the stand of trees just east of the cabin is actually Bubo scandiacus and not Bubo virginianus. Thanks to D.S-J. for the tip!