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In "Apocalypse NOT" forum on February 14, 2022 at 4:59 pm

The headline, according to Molly Glick at Popular Science is: “The Great Lakes are Higher Than They’ve Ever Been, and We’re Not Sure What Will Happen Next.” We felt compelled by this horrifying news to click immediately on Molly’s story to find out how long Michigan. e.g., had, before the raging white caps engulfed it completely, battering Detroit to ruins, or at least those portions of it that are not already in ruins.

A suddenly formed “Meteotsunami” (explained somewhere below) threatens the Motor City. It may become as high as 12 inches before crashing into the defenseless metropolis.

If we’d paused a moment longer we would have concluded without need of further mentation that everything in the title before the conjunction was baloney, and everything following the conjunction was apodictic. Why then, bother clicking? Because like millions of other gobsmacked American browsers of the Internet, we fell victim to DEADLY CLICK BAIT! Well, okay, it’s only deadly if it scares you to death, but it could happen.

La Glick

Let’s face it, unless Molly Glick kept exact scientific measurements from the time the Lakes were formed, in other words from the end of the Last Glacial Period around 14,000 years ago, she cannot possibly hope to know whether they are “higher than they’ve ever been,” while it is indisputably true to say she isn’t sure what will happen next, a point her article drives home eloquently. An additional truth that is hard to dispute rationally, is that the personnel at places like “Pocket” on Firefox, Yahoo, and My Feed at Microsoft Edge, are culpable of unbridled sensationalism pitched skillfully at the most basic fears of the politically correct. 

Lakes different from oceans, expert claims!

Glick explains that: “A storm on Lake Michigan isn’t the same as a storm on the ocean: There are different atmospheric factors and water-flow patterns that determine its ferocity.” This might lead one to ask whether  we should be concerned with additional differences–including those that do not necessarily correlate with record water levels.  After all, the Edmund Fitzgerald went down when levels were comparatively normative.

But it turns out that we should actually be worried about our Native American and, we suppose, Native Canadian, brethren and sistren (read: Indians), because the danger to Native Americans in particular ramifies from problems with freshwater levels, sort of, anyway.

As the savvy reader will have already seen coming, “Living at Superior’s southern edge, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community…rely on it [the Keweenaw Bay], for tourism revenue, drinking water, and fish for the tribal hatchery.” It might also be inferred that higher waters are disastrous for all of these concerns, but no!  It transpires that  “A full lake is good news.” On the other hand, if the levels spill over, this could spell disaster. The impression now looms that conditions “could” prove “dangerous,” and momently, too, but wait–it’s already happened. It happened most recently during the (apparently infamous) 2018 “Father’s Day Flood” during which seven inches of rain pounded the area in approximately three hours, which may account for Glick’s subsequent observation that, “The 2018 Father’s Day flood was linked to heavy amounts of rain.”

Bury our hearts on flooded Father’s Day!

If only some process existed for making the peninsula drier arid more sun parched, the torrents might have been averted. Apparently, though,  no such solution is in the immediate future. It seems the excessive rains themselves triggered an aftermath afloat with fecal material, and E. coli bacteria, prompting the Michigan Health Department’s shuttering of several swimming spots along the state’s Upper Peninsula. It seems also to induce umbrage in journalist Glick who notes the department “didn’t offer to test the tribe’s domain” for specific contaminants, leaving the “community” to “take matters into [its] own hands,” but the tribe appears to have managed this ably, and, one might venture to say, responsibly.There follows  a relative glut of data on the significance of ecological “sustainability” to the tribes’ reliance on fishing for food, recreation, and income; not a word of which should anyone doubt, except insofar as it seems extraneous inasmuch as no additional disaster has thus far befallen anyone.  But, a local Indian environmental activist tells of ongoing beach monitoring resulting in two closings of reservation beaches for pollution, possibly unrelated.

Possibly unprecedented…

Native American Beach Patrol on the job.

Glick quotes the activist as calling this “unprecedented” in Keweenaw Bay history “as far as she knows.”  But, as far as WOOF knows, nobody was measuring for such concerns previously. But so far as such closings are concerned, the activist predicts that these beach closings “likely won’t be the last, given that the region is becoming more unstable by the day.” But no means off measuring or actual measurements indicating quotidian destabilization are adduced, which is regrettable given how compelling they must surely be.

Monitoring the Keweenaw Bay area for signs of instability is vital to a safe environment.

Tribes, cities, and wildlife managers…

Across the 5,241 miles of Great Lakes shoreline,” writes Glick, “tribes, cities, vacationers, and wildlife managers are grappling with devastating flooding and erosion.” And even though we felt vaguely cheated by the absence of photos depicting, say, area vacationers or cities “grappling with devastating flooding and erosion,” we could see it all in our mind’s eye. We also felt momentarily vindicated in our rush to click on Glick and her version of events, seduced as we were by pics of towering Great Lakes waves lashing shorelines…an obvious harbinger of the end of days–the inevitable backlash assignable to humankind’s abuses of Gaia’s sacred tenets.  It remained only to ascertain how swiftly our doom would ensue.  But wait!

WOOF couldn’t locate any current photos of Native Americans being devastated by floods, but these plucky youngsters are certainly prepared for all eventualities!

Even though Glick leads off by reminding readers that all along our nation’s coasts, “rising seas are creeping inland at a steady pace,” (which is probably why New York will be submerged by 2012), that pace is “not observable” where the coastal areas bear on our great inland seas. In fact, despite all the photos on Yahoo of torrential freshwater waves crashing over coastal ramparts and violating formerly untrespassed acreage, it turns out ecosystemic tantrums of this sort are almost entirely “cyclical.”

Bouncing above and below…

Despite all the devastating flooding and erosion “wildlife managers are grappling with,” it turns out that the “five Great Lakes fluctuate naturally by season…” although Glick hastens to argue that “over the past four decades, [the Lakes have] bounced both above and below historic records.” To emphasize the urgency, Glick calls on “experts,” (although not by name), all of whom apparently “suspect” that global warming, or “climatic change” as Glick rather more slyly couches the matter, is at least “partially” causing these seasonal shifts, but she admits that “the complex nature of the water, [makes it] hard to isolate human factors from the rest of the turbulence.” This last sentiment, we gather, represents a consensus of Glick and the “experts,” none of whom seems to have considered the possibility that climate change itself might  well prove isolatable from human factors.

The author writes that “to understand how much the Great Lakes have seesawed,” (no, not seaweed, seesawed)  one must review the statistics conscientiously compiled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ranging from 1860 until the present.  But according to Army measurements, it turns out monthly averages of the water levels have “stayed within a modest six-foot range of their typical levels.”  But then Glick exclaims that these measurements are unreliable because the pattern of spikes since September of 2014 shows the Great Lakes have “broken and re-broken” the majority of such long term records.  So are the are the Army’s findings calculatedly bogus, simply wrong, or sloppily misstated by Glick? We can only wonder.

Further complexities…

Foolish Grosse Pointe Shores residents tend their pools, even as the ticking time bomb of Lake Saint Claire looms in the background!

Glick further insists that as of last June and July, Lakes Superior, Erie, Ontario, and “the sixth Great Lake,” (Lake St. Clair, in case you were wondering), each raged in excess of centuries old highs, surging in defiance of those evidently meaningless Army observations, threatening, one assumes, all life in Grosse Pointe Shores, among other equally vital localities, while  Lakes Michigan and Huron towered three feet above their monthly average, placing Chicago and Milwaukee in imminent peril of watery obliteration, even as tensions ran as high as the tides in normally somnolent Port Huron. In fact,WOOF has not fully satisfied itself that all threatened Canadian townships remain viable, as communications may have been lost.

And again, just as we are verging on solidarity with our global-alarmist brethren, we are reminded that no dire meteorologic events are blameworthy in these instances. According to Chin Wu, an engineer at the University of Wisconsin with suspicious connections to the Army Corps of Engineers, whose unduly sanguine fallibilities we encountered  above, “Some of these patterns are inherent to [sic] the cycles that shape the Great Lakes.” Wu is further quoted as saying,“the Great Lakes are very complex,” which, we submit, explains everything.

When weather doesn’t go as planned…

Greg Mann, Great Lakes Weather Planner.

Except, perhaps, for why the Lakes are overflowing. So why are the Lakes overflowing, or, alternatively, why will they if they do? The answer is still global warming, because, as Greg Mann, Science and Operations Officer of NOAA’s National Weather Service Forecast Office points out, things are just too cold. Hence, says Mann, the extreme cold led “directly to extreme ice cover from 2013, 2014, and 2015.” Prior to global warming, it seems “competing atmospheric processes, like evaporation and precipitation, “usually” kept the Great Lakes system regulated, so there was less freezing.”But when one of those reactions doesn’t go as planned the water builds up too quickly.” In  other words, put less Gnostically, things were considerably colder than expected, (or as planned, in Mann’s phrase), creating a lot more ice than expected, and then, when the weather got warmer come Spring, it all melted and became lots more water than anyone expected–(or planned).  

Exactly what happened…

Even Glick gets the point, writing, “That’s exactly what happened,” (except she obviously feels morally and politically obligated to inculpate a “polar vortex” in the incident. [As many readers will have cognized years ago, even the lengthiest and profoundest climatic freeze may be cited as evidence of global warming, so long as one attributes the circumstance to a polar vortex.]  They are cussed things.   Months later, Glick notes, “the ice thawed into the lakes, just as the heavy spring rains arrived.” This may not be a meteorological term, but “duh?”

Embedded symbolism…

Now, Glick comes into full voice, suddenly channeling for Michigan residents everywhere, for whom, she writes, there is “also a symbolic importance embedded in Michigan’s coasts.” In case you don’t feel comfortable taking Glick’s word, she cites no less an authority than Nick Assendelft, public information officer at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, who opines that “Locals take ownership of and advocate for the Great Lakes’ protection; it’s in the DNA of Michiganders to have a connection with water.” One of our humble editors vouches for that. He is a Michigander, and upon reflection, he feels connected to water, especially since, if separated from it, he cannot expect to survive much more than three days, perhaps because he is 60% composed of it.

“It’s in the DNA of Michiganders to have a connection with water.”

But in no less than metaphorical terms, Glick analogizes the perceived horrors of global warming to the predicament of the average Lake Huron cottage dweller who sees his beachfront shrinking. If in doing so she appears to confuse sand with ice, we can forgive her in view of the graveness of the issues.

Receding ice cover….

But wait This could be a good thing in another way, since, as  Mann explains: “Reduced precipitation and low ice cover can speed up evaporation, causing levels to bottom out.” “In fact,” Glick admits, “before the recent stretch of highs, the Great Lakes experienced its longest sustained period of below average waters. [What?] In spring of 2013, Lakes Huron and Michigan reached the nadir of a fifteen-year plunge, posing a challenge for industries like shipping and hydropower.”  So you might begin to think that more ice, less evaporation, and higher water levels are better for the planet than all that dryness and ebbing tide, but wait!

A Great Lakes “Meteotsunami” makes landfall. (They’re much bigger than they look.)

High waters mean that “Meteotsunamis” may “randomly materialize in the Great Lakes.” These are abnormally large waves “lasting anywhere between a few minutes and two hours.” These “storm-driven waves” sound horrifying, although somewhat less so after Glick tells us they average about one foot in height. Still, “an abnormally tall meteotsunami” once struck Chicago’s shoreline and killed seven people, possibly abnormally sound sleepers. Anyway, all that happened in 1954, decades before the invention of global warming. Still,”from that data, experts can try to learn if climate change is gaming the Great Lakes system,” although, “they still won’t be able to draw any solid correlations.” Worst luck!

“Moving forward…”

Eric Anderson, folk singer. (We couldn’t find a photo of the ‘physical oceanographer.’)

“Moving forward,” says Eric Anderson, a physical oceanographer at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, “there’s no telling what the lake waters will do. They could wax and wane as they have over the past century, with slight deviations from global warming and regional cold snaps.” How does one certify, we wonder, a “slight deviation from global warming”–or even clearly define one?  Moreover, the Army Corps of Engineers boldly forecasts “a wide range of short term outcomes for each of the Great Lakes,” meaning, exactly, what?  Overall, they’re expecting a “similar situation across the lakes for the next six months,” says John Allis, chief of the Detroit District Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office, without specifying what a situation similar to a “wide range of outcomes” will look like, or how on earth such a prediction can ever be deemed incorrect. 

“There is still time, brother!”

So when, you may ask, will we have a definitive take on the damage–if  any–Great Lake fluctuation may visit upon us, and the part global warming may play? If you guessed “50 years,” you must be psychic.  Lord, save us from the grip of these 50-year predictions (that never seem reduced to 49 or 47 years as time passes) and the temptation to click on these yellow-journalistic headlines leading to these blah, indeterminate articles composed of blah, ill-defined utterances by the usual parade of putative experts.

And Lord preserve those who actually set sale and confront conditions in which hurricane force winds blow across the Lakes come autumn, churning their waters into towering mountains of battering force as cold and warm air masses collide   It’s been going on for centuries, gentle readers. Mainers call it “the witch of November,” and as Hillary Clinton might say, there’s nothing new here.