Reuters

An escaped chunk of the Polar Vortex caused this weird-looking mass emanation of vapors.

The unusually severe cold snap this week has dealt misery to many – hundreds of Amtrak passengers stranded overnight by blowing snow, Hoosiers ordered to stay inside lest they freeze to death, a zoo's polar bear that is not at all equipped to deal with this level of frigidness.

But it's also brought wonderment in the form of steam fog over the Great Lakes, an arctic evanescence that makes water look like a great bowl of steaming chicken broth.

The view from the ground on Monday was like a Thomas Kinkade painting that didn't suck. Watch Lake Michigan boil over with spectral vapors as moisture above the waves is hit by freezing air escaped from the Polar Vortex:

From a height of several hundred miles, the view was quite different. NASA's Terra satellite recorded the fog event as it materialized over the region yesterday, watching as the lake air turned cottony and billowed southeast in a long plume:

The same shot cast in false color illuminates the various kinds of winter weather popping in the area. There is snow on the ground in orange, water-based clouds in white, and mixed clouds of liquid and ice in Creamsicle:

This might be the last time in a while that residents of the Great Lakes get to see some ghostly steam fog. The cold blast that's plaguing the eastern two-thirds of the nation with wind chills as low as -50 degrees is already starting to quit town. Here are the predicted low temperatures of today from the National Weather Service:

The cold begins creeping away by Wednesday night:

And on Thursday night the temperatures are predicted to be bearable once again:

Satellite images courtesy of NASA

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    A History of the American Public Library

    A visual exploration of how a critical piece of social infrastructure came to be.

  2. A photo of a design maquette for the Obama Presidential Center planned for Jackson Park and designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.
    Design

    Why the Case Against the Obama Presidential Center Is So Important

    A judge has ruled that a lawsuit brought by Chicago preservationists can proceed, dealing a blow to Barack Obama's plans to build his library in Jackson Park.

  3. Equity

    Berlin Builds an Arsenal of Ideas to Stage a Housing Revolution

    The proposals might seem radical—from banning huge corporate landlords to freezing rents for five years—but polls show the public is ready for something dramatic.

  4. Design

    There’s a Tile Theft Epidemic in Lisbon

    With a single azulejo fetching hundreds of euros at the city’s more reputable antique stores, these tiles, sitting there out in the open, are easy pickings.

  5. Maps

    Mapping the Growing Gap Between Job Seekers and Employers

    Mapping job openings with available employees in major U.S. cities reveals a striking spatial mismatch, according to a new Urban Institute report.