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Great Lakes Article:

High-tech buoy monitors weather in Michigan
By John Flesher
Associated Press
Posted on on August 25, 2005

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - A solar-powered buoy bobbing on the surface of Grand Traverse Bay is providing boaters, forecasters and other interested people with up-to-date information about the Lake Michigan waterway's sometimes volatile weather.

And that's just for starters, if scientists have their way. The floating device is being added to a developing network of Great Lakes buoys that could support research projects on topics ranging from global warming to oxygen depletion.

The University of Michigan's Marine Hydrodynamics Lab is managing data transmitted from the buoy, which was launched last month. The information, updated every 10 minutes, became available over the Internet this week.

The buoy will be removed during winter, when the bay surface often freezes.

"This is going to have a lot of practical applications for near-coast users as well as the research community," Mark Breederland, the Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator for northwestern Michigan, said Thursday.

The buoy is about 10 feet high, but only the top 4.5 feet reaches above the surface. It's fitted with sensors that measure wind speed and direction, wave height, and temperatures of the air and surface water. It is anchored about 1.5 miles north of Traverse City on the western arm of the bay, where the water is 150 feet deep.

The National Weather Service monitors the same conditions from the Cherry Capital Airport, only a few miles away.

"But the wind changes dramatically as it encounters the edge of the land," said Guy Meadows, director of the university lab. "It's very important to get measurements in the water itself."

The buoy already is proving valuable to the weather service office in Gaylord, which prepares marine forecasts for a wide area that includes Grand Traverse Bay.

"Even with all the satellites and radars and other tools we have, there's a surprising lack of direct measurements of the marine environment," forecaster Steve Rowley said. "For the first time, we have an instrument that can help provide those measurements of the winds and waves."

The data will be valuable for recreational boaters, sport and commercial fishermen and others who need accurate information about conditions on the roughly 30-mile-long bay, Meadows said.

It also will assist educational programs. Law enforcement agencies could consult the database for updates on water currents when searching for drowning victims, Meadows said.

The buoy, which cost about $60,000, previously was placed in Lake St. Clair. It generated information for a computer model the University of Michigan lab developed to track water flow and predict when pollutants such as E. coli might drift near shore. Great Lakes beaches sometimes are closed when sewer overflows contaminate the waters with E. coli, a bacterium that can cause diarrhea, dehydration and other illnesses.

Scientists want to produce a similar model for Grand Traverse Bay, Meadows said.

The device has been added to a computer-linked network of Great Lakes buoys. Together, they are part of an observation system under development to support research into climate change, low oxygen levels and other topics.

The buoy also will supply information to a data center operated by the National Weather Service, which manages two other buoys in Lake Michigan.


Data from buoy accessible at:

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