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Photos: The Chicago Skyline, Seen From Michigan (!), Thanks To An Incredible Mirage

By Stephen Gossett in News on Apr 20, 2017 10:11PM

The scientific name for the phenomenon is superior mirage. It's also known colloquially as fata morgana—all helpful information since the stunning effect pretty much left us grasping for words.

All of the photos above were taken on Monday. And though the (entirely natural) effect tricks the eye into thinking there can't be much more than, say, a few miles between lens and dramatic subject, photographer Joshua Nowicki snapped the shots in Michigan City, IN and New Buffalo, MI—clear across the length of Lake Michigan.

How does it happen? It's all about the interaction of cold and warm temperatures and the density of the atmosphere.

St. Joseph resident Seth Brown, who shared similar shots with us when the phenomenon hit last year—gave us this primer then:

"When we see weather conditions featuring extremely clear/dry air, and a temperature inversion caused by warm air higher above cold air closer to the surface of the lake, this situation creates the mirage of seeing a 'skyline...'"

The photos from Nowicki (he who also brought us the magnificent "ice castle" lighthouse) have an extra fascinating wrinkle. "There’s obviously a part of the atmosphere above the superior mirage where there is cold air above warm air, since... you can see the tops of the buildings hovering above, upside down," as the Washington Post holds our hand through. Mind = blown.

According to MLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa, April is prime mirage season, thanks to the temperature disparity between the colder water surface and the warmer atmosphere above. So if you have any shutterbug people across the water. Tell 'em to look alive.