Fata Morgana Provides Eerie Look at Chicago Across Lake Michigan

Jonathan Belles
Published: April 18, 2017

Imagine looking across Lake Michigan expecting to see just the sun on the horizon, but instead you see a stretched city. That's what happened in New Buffalo, Michigan, on Monday.

This effect, photographed by Joshua Nowicki, is called Fata Morgana, which is an optical bending of light by changes in air temperature over bodies of cold water, such as Lake Michigan. 

A person on the north pier in New Buffalo, Michigan with the mirage of Chicago, Illinois in the distance.

What is seen here is the city of Chicago from the town of New Buffalo, which are roughly 45 miles apart.

(MORE: Light Pillars Illuminate Midwest Sky)

According to NASA, the Windy City seems so much closer because of the way light is bent through layers of varying density. The light that reaches your eyes comes from different angles across the lake, and thus the city seems to be growing or even floating. 

In other images Nowicki captured some buildings are even flipped upside down and they're all roughly stretched to the same height. 

This same effect can cause islands or even mountains to trick your eyes. It made one city float in China

(MORE: One Photo, Nine Different Optical Phenomena)

This mirage may have even played a role in the sinking of the Titanic

MORE: Rainbow Photobombs


The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.