Why does the water temperature change so drastically at the beach on Lake Michigan?

Weather Blog

Dear Tom,

Can you explain why the water temperature can change so drastically at the beach? One day it feels like a bathtub, and the next day it’s freezing.

Mackenzie Kessler
Dear Mackenzie,
Wind direction is a significant factor for the Lake Michigan water temperature. The sun’s rays warm the water closest to the lake’s surface while the deeper water remains quite chilly. When winds blow on-shore, the warm surface water is pushed toward the beaches, creating ideal swimming conditions. However, when winds blow offshore, a process called upwelling carries the warm surface water out into the lake, allowing the colder bottom water to replace it at the shore. In summer, Chicago beach water temperatures drop with brisk west winds, while east winds bring warm water to Chicago and chilly water to the Michigan beaches.

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