The North Shore offers us the opportunity to witness some unbelievable Lake Superior phenomena. One of those phenomena is Sea Smoke.

Sea SmokeWhat is Sea Smoke?

Sea Smoke happens when temperatures drop the cold air meets with the warm water. The “warmer” water below generally sits at a frigid 33-35 degrees and the above air below zero. When this happens it creates the appearance of “smoke” billowing off of Lake Superior. The smoke is actually water vapor that rises and condenses into fog. This happens because the cold air above is already saturated with water.

When the smoke is paired with the cold wind from the North creates tornado-like rising clouds called “Steam Devils”

When can you see Sea Smoke?

The best time of the year to see the smoke on Lake Superior is in the colder winter months. Especially, early in the morning when there is more moisture in the air. Mid-November to mid-April is typically the best time to spot the smoke.  When the temperatures are low unless of course, the lake freezes over but that rarely happens.

Sea Smoke

Where is the best place to see Sea Smoke

The high cliffs along the Noth Shore of Lake Superior offer the best vantage point to view sea smoke. It is recommended to be at least 700 feet above Lake Superior however, you can view the smoke from just about anywhere along the shoreline. Although you can see the smoke from anywhere on the shoreline if you want to get the perfect picture you will want to be higher above the lake.

Because of the increase in waves in the winter ships tend to sail closer to the shoreline so if you are lucky you may see a ship looming in the smoke.