Unlike last winter, there have been few real blasts of cold arctic air this winter. In fact it's been so warm we've had double digit highs in December! This warm spell was ushered away on January 7th under the first real bitterly cold arctic blast we've had. Temperatures plunged into the low negative teens and minus twenties in some areas.
The lake water in the photo above is around 1-2C above freezing and the air blasting overhead is a balmy -18C. The 20 degree difference leads to steam fog near the surface.
Here's the log from my Davis VP2 weather station showing the 24 hour period.
It was a balmy -9C until the arctic front hit around 3:15AM and then the big temperature plummet began with late morning lows bottoming out around -18C and a windchill of -28.5C.
The temperatures briefly did rebound to around -16C towards 3PM thanks to strong daytime heating but quickly collapsed to -19.5C in the evening.
Here's a surface analysis at 12Z courtesy of the NOAA HPC. You can see the arctic front dipping into New York state by this time.
Here's another surface chart courtesy of UQAM in Quebec. Note the -20's just east of Georgian Bay and along the north shore of Lake Ontario east of Oshawa.
My plan for the day was to get east of Oshawa. This would keep me away from any Lake Huron/Georgian Bay lake effect snow showers or temperature modification that could interfere or moderate the airmass. I wanted to get Lake Ontario where it would be the most unstable and steamy. This meant getting east of the northern lakes was critical with the NNW wind fields for maximum steam devil and steamspout action!
Note the vortex appears to reach the LFC/CCL and feed into its own growing cumulus cloud. If this is confirmed it would technically be a weak waterspout (snowspout = winter waterspout) induced by the thermal instability of the lake water vs polar air.
This is another suspiciously tall steamspout that appears to be feeding into a shallow cumulus cloud. Optical illusion or legitimate phenomenon? We'll never know!
This is a bonafide 100% steam devil dancing across the lake surface.
Here's a cropped version of the same photo. These little steam devils are driven by the exact same thermal conditions that give rise to traditional dust devils.
This was a vigorous little steam devil.
Here’s a brief video showing the steam devils in action!
The video is from 2015 but I still have 2014 on my mind so ignore that error! There’s also no audio because some nearby hunters kept firing off their .22 and missing the Geese they were trying to hit. So it was a little annoying.