Storms of My Grandchildren by Dr. James Hansen

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 11:34 PM GMT on July 26, 2010

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"Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity" is NASA climate change scientist Dr. James Hansen's first book. Dr. Hansen is arguably the most visible and well-respected climate change scientist in the world, and has headed the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City since 1981. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. Dr. Hansen greatly raised awareness of the threat of global warming during his Congressional testimony during the record hot summer of 1988, and issued one of the first-ever climate model predictions of global warming (see an analysis here to see how his 1988 prediction did.) In 2009, Dr. Hansen was awarded the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Meteorological Society, for his "outstanding contributions to climate modeling, understanding climate change forcings and sensitivity, and for clear communication of climate science in the public arena."

Storms of My Grandchildren focuses on the key concepts of the science of climate change, told through Hansen's personal experiences as a key player in field's scientific advancements and political dramas over the past 40 years. Dr. Hansen's writing style is very straight-forward and understandable, and he clearly explains the scientific concepts involved in a friendly way that anyone with a high school level science education can understand. I did not find any scientific errors in his book. However, some of his explanations are too long-winded, and the book is probably too long, at 274 pages. Nevertheless, Storms of My Grandchildren is a must-read, due to the importance of the subject matter and who is writing it. Hansen is not a fancy writer. He comes across as a plain Iowan who happened to stumble into the field of climate change and discovered things he had to speak out about. And he does plenty of speaking out in his book.

James Hansen vs. Richard Lindzen
Dr. Hansen's book opens with an interesting chapter on his participation in four meetings of Vice President Dick Cheney's cabinet-level Climate Task Force in 2001. It seems that the Bush Administration was prepared to let Dr. Hansen's views on climate change influence policy. However, Dr. Richard Lindzen, whom Hansen describes as "the dean of of global warming contrarians", was also present at the meetings. Dr.Lindzen was able to confuse the task force members enough so that they never took Dr. Hansen's views seriously. Hansen observes that "U.S. policies regarding carbon dioxide during the Bush-Cheney administration seem to have been based on, or at a minimum, congruent with, Lindzen's perspective." Hansen asserts that Lindzen was able to do this by acting more like a lawyer than a scientist: "He and other contrarians tend to act like lawyers defending a client, presenting only arguments that favor their client. This is in direct contradiction to...the scientific method." Hansen also comments that he asked Lindzen what he thought of the link between smoking and cancer, since Lindzen had been a witness for the tobacco industry decades earlier. Lindzen "began rattling off all the problems with the data relating smoking to health problems, which was closely analogous to his views of climate data."

Alarmism
Global warming contrarians often dismiss scientists such a Dr. Hansen as "alarmists" who concoct fearsome stories about climate change in order to get research funding. Dr. Lindzen made this accusation at Cheney's Climate Task Force in 2001. However, Dr. Hansen notes that "in 1981 I lost funding for research on the climate effects of carbon dioxide because the Energy Department was displeased with a paper, 'Climate Impact of Increasing Carbon Dioxide,' I had published in Science magazine. The paper made a number of predictions for the 21st century, including 'opening of the fabled Northwest Passage', which the Energy Department considered to be alarmist but which have since proven to be accurate." If you read Dr. Hansen's book and listen to his lectures, it is clear that he is not an alarmist out to get more research funding by hyping the dangers of global warming. Hansen says in his book that "my basic nature nature is very placid, even comfortably stolid", and that nature comes through very clearly in Storms of My Grandchildren. Hansen's writings express a quiet determination to plainly set forth the scientific truth on climate change. He has surprisingly few angry words towards the politicians, lobbyists, and scientists intent on distorting the scientific truth.

The science of climate change
The bulk of Storms of My Grandchildren is devoted to explanations of the science of climate change. Hansen's greatest concern is disintegration of the gerat ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica causing sea level rise: "Once the ice sheets begin to rapidly disintegrate, sea level would be continuously changing for centuries. Coastal cities would become impractical to maintain." Hansen is concerned that evidence from past climate periods show that the massive ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica can melt quickly, with large changes within a century. For example, sea level at the end of the most recent Ice Age, 13,000 - 14,000 years ago, rose at a rate of 3 - 5 meters (10 - 17 feet) per century for several centuries. Hansen is convinced that just a 1.7 -2°C warming, which would likely result if we stabilize CO2 at 450 ppm, would be a "disaster scenario" that would trigger rapid disintegration of the ice sheets and disastrous rises in sea level. Hansen advocates stabilizing CO2 at 350 ppm (we are currently at 390 ppm, with a rate of increase of 2 ppm per year.)

Another of Hansen's main concerns is the extinction of species. He notes that studies of more than 1,000 species of plants, animals, and insects have found an average migration rate towards the poles due to climate warming in the last half of the 20th century to be four miles per decade. "That is not fast enough. During the past thirty years the lines marking the regions in which a given average temperature prevails (isotherms) have been moving poleward at a rate of about thirty-five miles per decade. If greenhouse gases continue to increase at business-as-usual rates, then the rate of isotherm movement will double in this century to at least seventy miles per decade."

Hansen's other main concern is the release of large amounts of methane gas stored in sea-floor sediments in the form of methane hydrates. If ocean temperatures warm according to predictions, the higher temperatures at the sea floor may be enough to destabilize the methane hydrate sediments and release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 - 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Solutions to the climate change problem
Dr. Hansen is a controversial figure, since he has stepped outside his field of expertise and become an activist in promoting solutions to the climate change problem. He devotes a chapter called "An Honest, Effective Path" in the book to this. His main theme is that we need to tax fossil fuels using a "fee-and-dividend" approach. All of the tax money collected would be distributed uniformly to the public. This carbon tax would gradually rise, giving people time to adjust their lifestyle, choice of vehicle, home insulation, etc. Those who do better at reducing their fossil fuel use will receive more in the dividend than they will pay in the added costs of the products they buy. The approach is straightforward and does not require a large bureaucracy, but currently has little political support. Hansen is vehemently opposed to the approach that has the most political support, "Cap-and-trade": "Cap-and-trade is what governments and the people in alligator shoes (the lobbyists for special interests) are trying to foist on you. Whoops. As an objective scientist I should delete such personal opinions, to at least flag them. But I am sixty-eight years old, and I am fed up with the way things work in Washington." Hansen also promotes an overlooked type of nuclear power, "fast" reactors with liquid metal coolant that produce far less nuclear waste and are much more efficient than conventional nuclear reactors.

Quotes from the book
"Humanity treads today on a slippery slope. As we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the air, we move onto a steeper, even more slippery incline. We seem oblivious to the danger--unaware how close we may be to a situation in which a catastrophic slip becomes practically unavoidable, a slip where we suddenly lose all control and are pulled into a torrential stream that hurls us over a precipice to our demise."

"In order for a democracy to function well, the public needs to be honestly informed. But the undue influence of special interests and government greenwash pose formidable barriers to a well-informed public. Without a well-informed public, humanity itself and all species on the planet are threatened."

"Of course by 2005 I was well aware that the NASA Office of Public Affairs had become an office of propaganda. In 2004, I learned that NASA press releases related to global warming were sent to the White House, where they were edited to appear less serious or discarded entirely."

"If we let special interests rule, my grandchildren and yours will pay the price."

"The role of money in our capitals is the biggest problem for democracy and for the planet."

"The problem with asking people to pledge to reduce their fossil fuel use is that even if lots of people do, one effect is reduced demand for fossil fuel and thus a lower price--making it easier for someone else to burn...it is necessary for people to reduce their emissions, but it is not sufficient if the government does not adopt policies that cause much of the fossil fuels to be left in the ground permanently."

"I have argued that it is time to 'draw a line in the sand' and demand no new coal plants."

"The present situation is analogous to that faced by Lincoln with slavery and Churchill with Nazism--the time for compromises and appeasement is over."

"Humans are beginning to hammer the climate system with a forcing more than an order of magnitude more powerful than the forcings that nature employed."

"Once ice sheet disintegration begins in earnest, our grandchildren will live the rest of their lives in a chaotic transition period."

"After the ice is gone, would Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I've come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty."

"One suggestion I have for now: Support Bill McKibben and his organization 350.org. It is the most effective and responsible leadership in the public struggle for climate justice."

Commentary
James Hansen understands the Earth's climate as well as any person alive, and his concern about where our climate is headed makes Storms of My Grandchildren a must-read for everyone who cares about the world their grandchildren will inherit. Storms of My Grandchildren retails for $16.50 at Amazon.com. Dr. Hansen's web site is http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting sailingallover:

The NOGAPS has it going just north of us pulled by a trough thats comes off the coast next Thursday...
Far out but thats what we have for now...

Okay thanks, something to keep an eye on, i remember Hurricane Dean back in 2007, it had the hurricane going 100 miles north of us, then it kept readjusting. The storm eventually went about 200-250 miles south of us.
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Good Afternoon!
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Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
4280. Drakoen
The reliable CFS paints a good picture of the upward MJO returning to our basin by August first and becoming the predominant phase as we go through August and into September.

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4279. Levi32
Quoting sailingallover:

Hot off the Satellite..pretty good circulation..more of a depression already..


That's actually more than 12 hours old now, but yes if that pass was accurate then it's only a little hop away from a depression, and it still looks good now, but I'd like to see it hold that presentation through tonight.
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4278. IKE
I think Dr. Masters is calling for 4 majors in 2010.

1998 wound up 14-10-2.....

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Quoting Drakoen:


I see a wave over Western Africa but not near 22W. That looks much like a perturbation within the ITCZ.

Hot off the Satellite..pretty good circulation..more of a depression already..

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4276. Hottime
Could someone please point me to some reasonable reference work on long range climate forecasting; temperatures, rain, etc. What will climate look like in the USA over the next 30 or 40 years if global warming proceeds as forecasted. I understand this is a lot of crystal-balling.
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4206 JLPR2 "This doesn't seem to be going POOF at all."

meh... Everything has been looking good at 25W, then falling apart around 35W.
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4274. IKE
Quoting Diplomacy:


Excatly, Mr. meteorologist. bob, in your professional viewpoint, sir, wouldn't that be far greater then a dead season? the lose of trust coming from the american people would be a catastrophy in its own right. not to mention it would severely cripple the rep of the NHC. do you see where im trying to get here? anyhow, if their sakes this season better at least be remotely active, or else they'll be having a lot of explaning to do, come december 1st.


A lot of people don't pay attention like we do. My wife doesn't care about it at all. No one in my family does until I tell them and then they still don't seem concerned about it.

I enjoy following it. I'm surprised the way this season is going. Dr. Masters was saying it might be like 1998 in a previous blog.
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Quoting LowerCal:


Correct! For bonus points what was the other year had that situation? ;^)


2008
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Quoting Diplomacy:


Excatly, Mr. meteorologist. bob, in your professional viewpoint, sir, wouldn't that be far greater then a dead season? the lose of trust coming from the american people would be a catastrophy in its own right. not to mention it would severely cripple the rep of the NHC. do you see where im trying to get here? anyhow, if their sakes this season better at least be remotely active, or else they'll be having a lot of explaning to do, come december 1st.


Yes, but us Meteorologists do a good job of wiggling out of it!..LOL We will find some big words to use!!..LOL But believe me I see where you are coming from!
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Quoting reedzone:


Thanks, haha I live 30 minutes south of there.


Yep, Palm Coast. I worked many years down there.
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Quoting PRweathercenter:
Models are to give us a little guidance on weather possibilities, however they are never 100 percent accurate. Most of the time there are quite a bit off until the system is a few days in the ocean.
I think this wave has the makings of a possible TS in the future, my question is will it stay out in the open atlantic or affect land.

The NOGAPS has it going just north of us pulled by a trough thats comes off the coast next Thursday...
Far out but thats what we have for now...
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Quoting JLPR2:
This doesn't seem to be going POOF at all. :S



Yor rong, RIP pre-90L

Sorry someone had to say it :)
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4265. Drakoen
Quoting sailingallover:

Drak..the NHC appears leaves the far eastern Atlantic to METEO. This is not the first time they have waited to mark a wave fresh off Africa..they did the same thing with the one that eventually became Bonnie..


I see a wave over Western Africa but not near 22W. That looks much like a perturbation within the ITCZ.
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Quoting weatherguy03:


Good Luck. I live here in St. Augustine so maybe we will see ya around singing!


Thanks, haha I live 30 minutes south of there.
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4263. Levi32
Quoting LowerCal:


Correct! For bonus points what was the other year had that situation. ;^)


1995.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


My forecast has been 13-7-3 since March :)
I knew you had things in perspective. ;^)
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4260. Drakoen
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


It really has not even started yet, schedule is Aug 15 - Sep 30. All of their obs, including dropsondes should help the global models quite a bit.


Hence I said headway into getting this research going :)
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Quoting StormW:
Good afternoon all!

Afternoon storm..it is safe to come in today.
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Quoting Levi32:


1998.


Correct! For bonus points what was the other year had that situation? ;^)
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Quoting Drakoen:


Incorrect. The wave is at best still over Western Africa. To start, one would have to question why the NHC has not marked a wave in the Eastern Atlantic. There is no evidence of wave passage based on the upper air observations from Dakar, Senegal. The observations do indicate that there may be a wave east of the station. Looking at the wave tracking winds, we can see those southeasterlies/wave-like curvature to the east of the system so the wave may be over extreme western Africa or just off the coast. MIMIC-TPW does not feature a peak moisture surge but it does show a perturbation within the ITCZ near 22W, which is what you guys are observing.

Drak..the NHC appears leaves the far eastern Atlantic to METEO. This is not the first time they have waited to mark a wave fresh off Africa..they did the same thing with the one that eventually became Bonnie..
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Quoting Drakoen:


I did see that. I personally love the work this group is doing to understand how tropical waves form into cyclones. They really seem to be making headway into getting this research going.


It really has not even started yet, schedule is Aug 15 - Sep 30. All of their obs, including dropsondes should help the global models quite a bit.
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Quoting Drakoen:


The GFS and CMC did a much better job representing Bonnie.


That is true. The GFS is always much better above 20N. And yeah the CMC has really come around the last two season.
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Quoting Diplomacy:
hey ike and bob, guys, if taht were to happen, that would end up completely whipping right on off the map, all of teh credibility skills from the NHC, TSR, and CSU, in reference to their seasonal forecast. now, i tell you, that would be far worser then having a busts eason, wouldnt you think so? what the monumental expectations for this year, heckw asn't there even an agency, that in the pre-season roedicted about 17 or something like that for the season? i cant recall their name, though. if 2010 ends up being a bust season, hurricane prepardness will cease to exists in this country. dont believ me? wait and see. that would be far worser then any busts eason.


It would be tough to put out pre-season forecasts again and people pay attention. But again its early, long way to go.
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4251. Drakoen
Quoting weatherguy03:


None of the global models really featured this storm. They all did well. Bonnie had her moment for about 12 hours..LOL


The GFS and CMC did a much better job representing Bonnie.
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4250. Levi32
Quoting LowerCal:
Those thinking about adjusting their predictions downward may want to consider this image from one day at the height of the season of a popular analogue year.



1998.
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Quoting reedzone:


Oh, alright.. Thanks, I try not to hype things too much. 2 years ago I would call this a TD lol, so I've learned alot in the past year, especially last year when I goofed every prediction but Hurricane Bill. The record is coming along good, but slow. Looking to get into the studio by September.


Good Luck. I live here in St. Augustine so maybe we will see ya around singing!
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4246. Levi32
Quoting Drakoen:


It did fail, it barely recognized Bonnie while other models with a much lower resolution did feature the storm.


I do not think it was all that bad. I would have liked to see a low center recognized by the Euro, but the message of the model about Bonnie was the fact that she would stay in tandem with the upper low and remain very weak, which she did.
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Quoting Drakoen:


It did fail, it barely recognized Bonnie while other models with a much lower resolution did feature the storm.


None of the global models really featured this storm. They all did well. Bonnie had her moment for about 12 hours..LOL
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Those thinking about adjusting their predictions downward may want to consider this image from one day at the height of the season of a popular analogue year.

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4241. Drakoen
Quoting extreme236:


PGI21L was classified today over Western Africa.

Pouch Name: PGI21L Official Name: Initial Center Point: 16N 7W

Notes:

For this case, don't just look at the end of the track and
assume all is finished. Look at the fields, especially the
700hPa GFS & NOGAPS OW fields.
The 700/850 hPa pouch moves southwestward off of northwestern
Africa and initiates the development of an ITCZ circulation,
which then moves off to the west.
For today, I did NOT track the subsequent circulation!





I did see that. I personally love the work this group is doing to understand how tropical waves form into cyclones. They really seem to be making headway into getting this research going.
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Quoting weatherguy03:


I was joking with ya. You still have alot to learn, but I was like that at your age. At least you put it out there, and are not afraid to be wrong sometimes. Thats good!! BTW, hows the singing coming along??


Oh, alright.. Thanks, I try not to hype things too much. 2 years ago I would call this a TD lol, so I've learned alot in the past year, especially last year when I goofed every prediction but Hurricane Bill. The record is coming along good, but slow. Looking to get into the studio by September.
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4239. Levi32
Quoting PRweathercenter:

a very large wave


It's not large, it's actually quite small. The strong convection is what makes it look "big" in terms of how much it stands out.
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4238. Drakoen
Quoting Levi32:


It did not really fail that bad on Bonnie. Bonnie was a glorified tropical wave and never got very strong. ECMWF was correct in not really developing it. It was so small it was barely recognizable anyway.

Also, Euro is not God. It was scary to see the 0z run last night which is why I mentioned in my blog that we have to wait for consistency. Other models are in the game too so this wave has a shot, but as always we have to have patience.


It did fail, it barely recognized Bonnie while other models with a much lower resolution did feature the storm.
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AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

TS BUSTED FORECAST ALIBI
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4236. angiest
All right, who fed NOGAPS the data from 1900? The Caribbean storm it is firing up is taking almost this same path until it clears Cuba (and that is where the loop I am looking at ends).

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Quoting Drakoen:


Incorrect. The wave is at best still over Western Africa. To start, one would have to question why the NHC has not marked a wave in the Eastern Atlantic. There is no evidence of wave passage based on the upper air observations from Dakar, Senegal. The observations do indicate that there may be a wave east of the station. Looking at the wave tracking winds, we can see those southeasterlies/wave-like curvature to the east of the system so the wave may be over extreme western Africa or just off the coast. MIMIC-TPW does not feature a peak moisture surge but it does show a perturbation within the ITCZ near 22W, which is what you guys are observing.


PGI21L was classified today over Western Africa.

Pouch Name: PGI21L Official Name: Initial Center Point: 16N 7W

Notes:

For this case, don't just look at the end of the track and
assume all is finished. Look at the fields, especially the
700hPa GFS & NOGAPS OW fields.
The 700/850 hPa pouch moves southwestward off of northwestern
Africa and initiates the development of an ITCZ circulation,
which then moves off to the west.
For today, I did NOT track the subsequent circulation!



Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
Could we at least wait untill we have actual tropical cyclone development in the Atlantic and then look back at which model did what with it?
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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