Satellite Watch

Satellites provide an usual view of the Great Lakes environment.

Recent Stories

Animated satellite data shows record-setting Great Lakes ice


The longest period of ice cover in the Great Lakes officially ended on June 6 – much to the relief of everyone who suffered post-traumatic stress from last year’s harsh winter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] recently released a year’s worth of Great Lakes surface temperatures. The animation at right shows ice cover and temperature for one day each month of the year. The one below shows the same information for every day of the year. In the 40 years of collecting data there hasn’t been ice cover that has lasted this long, said Anne Clites, physical scientist for the NOAA. Continue Reading →

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Photo Friday: Satellite view of ice melting on Lake Baikal


Russia’s Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world and holds more freshwater than all of the North American Great Lakes. This shot featured on NASA’s Earth Observatory was taken from the International Space Station on April 22. Much of the lake is covered with ice. The brightest point reflects the sun from where the ice has begun to melt, according to NASA.   Continue Reading →

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Photo Friday: Land distribution around railroad supply town

Reese, Mich. as seen from NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite on May 21, 2012. Image: NASA

By Evan KreagerGreat Lakes EchoThe small town of Reese, just south of the crease of Michigan’s Thumb, was once a bustling supply center at the crossroads of two railways. This true-color image, taken by NASA’s Earth Observing – 1 satellite on May 21, 2012, shows the town at their intersection. The green and white square plots of land also gives insight into some of the area’s history, according to a description of the image produced by NASA. In the late 18th century, the Continental Congress decided how to govern the newly settled lands west of the Appalachian Mountains, according to the NASA description. The Ordinance of 1785 divided the land into townships, and then again into individual square mile plots, creating the colorful collage seen here. Continue Reading →

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Photo Friday: Ice atop Lake Erie

By the end of the bitter cold front that swept through the Midwest, 90% of Lake Erie was covered in ice. (Photo: NASA Earth Observatory)

When last week’s snowstorm and cold spell made its way through the Great Lakes, nearly 90 percent of Lake Erie froze over, according to the NASA Earth Observatory. The colorized picture above shows ice (pale blue) and snow (blue-green) formed on top of the lake. A report by Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at, showed that these high levels of ice coverage had not been seen on the Great Lakes since January 1994. Continue Reading →

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Photo Friday: Warm Great Lakes clash with frigid air to produce steam fog

A color-enhanced photo of this week's storm, highlighting snow, water clouds, and clouds with both water and ice.

This color-enhanced picture from the NASA Earth Observatory shows how the cold air moving across warmer waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior during this week’s arctic storm transformed water vapor into steam fog. NASA says one of its satellites on  Jan. 6 captured the data used here to illustrate the difference between snow (bright orange), water clouds (white), and mixed clouds (peach). Here’s what steam fog looked like near Chicago and from the ground view. Continue Reading →

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Photo Friday: Minnesota lakes take their time “icing out”



Some lakes in Minnesota are taking their time to thaw this spring, setting new “ice-out” records. Attributed to unusually cool spring temperatures, this satellite image shows lingering ice and white lake landscapes. The first photo was captured on May 12, 2013, when NASA’s Terra satellite passed over northern Minn. “Ice-out” is defined in this context as a lake being free of ice, but the definition often varies. Some define it based on ease of navigation, while others believe a lake has “iced-out” when it’s 90 percent free of ice, according to a report from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Continue Reading →

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