CLEVELAND - It was the most read story on newsnet5.com last Friday: the rare weather phenomenon that allows northern Ohioans to see the Canadian shoreline.
For me, the most-asked question this past weekend via Twitter & Facebook was "Hey Mark, will we be able to see the Canadian shore again today?" That's always a tough question to answer since any slight change in weather conditions over Lake Erie could cause the phenomenon to disappear.
I do know the shoreline was visible to many this past Sunday night. Friend and fellow scientist Jay Reynolds, a professor at Cleveland State University, sent in the above pictures on Monday. This shot was taken at Huntington Beach in Bay Village, Sunday at 11 p.m. It includes a close-up shot, which clearly shows the lights of the Canadian shore. Jay measured the distance to Canada from his vantage point as about 50 miles.
"Because of the curvature of the Earth, we are limited to approximately 16 miles." Reynolds said, "I guess the Earth really is round after all."
This rare optical event is called super refraction. It happens when a thin layer of very cold air settles in across our cold Lake Erie. Warmer air around and over top of this cold layer effectively acts as a cap. Light waves, radio waves, radar beams, etc. travel thru the very cold air near the lake surface. But as they move up higher in the sky, they bounce off that warmer layer aloft and are reflected back down toward earth. The result is the ability to see objects that are normally beyond the horizon.
Facebook follower Denny Petkovsek of Lakewood added this: "We had seen them off the Lorain shoreline Saturday night as well. My dad seems to think they are radio & tv towers for the Chatham-Kent, Ontario areas, as a few miles inland in Canada there is only farmland. I also think they could be those wind energy makers, as there are a lot there."
Indeed, the red lights in the picture are most likely the large wind mills from the Port Alma Wind Farm near Chatham, Ontario.
"This happens in the Spring & Autumn when the lake water temperature is radically different than the air temperature," Reynolds said.