Lights of Milwaukee?

Nate of Grand Haven asked, "I've heard that, on extremely rare occasions, atmospheric conditions reflect the image of the downtown Milwaukee skyline over the horizon as a mirage that becomes visible from the Grand Haven waterfront."
Mark Brooky
Jan 17, 2014

Nate continues: "Several longtime area residents have mentioned this to me, and some even claim to have seen it personally. Does this actually happen sometimes, or is it an urban legend? If it's real, are there any photos of it?"


Yes, Nate, it is a real phenomenon. I've seen it myself.

On his website, local history buff Bob Beaton has a rundown of newspaper articles and mentions of the "mirage" that date back to 1894. The most recent is a 2008 Tribune article by Marie Havenga about a film crew putting together a documentary on the subject; however, it's unclear that film was ever completed.

What your friends have witnessed is caused by a phenomenon known as "temperature inversion," where atmospheric conditions and air temperatures align exactly right so the lights of Milwaukee and other cities on the west shore of Lake Michigan show up as if they're just a few miles away. It's not exactly Milwaukee's lights, but a reflection of them that show up more than 80 miles to the east on our shoreline.

WOOD-TV meteorologist Bill Steffen has a good explanation on how it happens on his blog. CLICK HERE to see it, as well as a photo of such an event.

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Yes, Nate, when we lived in Grand Haven a few years ago we saw the lights of Milwaukee.
We were at the end of the pier on a clear summer night. It really happens.


I too have seen this many years ago. Strange, it looked like you could see the airport light flashing and lots of city lights. I took slides also, using my Canon AE-1. Yes, it was a while ago.


May have been a while ago but I bet that AE-1 still works. Those things are tanks.

They are great bodies for those looking to get into 35mm photography, and the FD glass is dirt cheap these days.


Boy you can say that again....I'm currently assembling all my old film based camera gear to put it up on Ebay in the faint hope that I'll be able to sell enough of it to pay for a new DSLR and a decent lens.
I've got Canon Stuff, 3-AT-1's 3-AE-1's and 4-F-1's plus about a dozen lenses of varied focal lengths, both fixed and zoom. Plus a ton of support stuff I dont need without Kodachrome.
I'm hoping for a film camera renassisance to help me out, kinda like the vinyl record one going on these days.....

ON TOPIC: I haven't seen the lights of Milwaukee, but I have seen the "green flash" a couple times in my life, that was pretty impressive.


Sit on the Bil-Mar deck drinking during the summer. You'll see the lights of Milwaukee and it will even make the people on the beach pretty!!!

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