NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

The latest news and information about NOAA research in and around the Great Lakes


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Andrea VanderWoude blends science and art to study the Great Lakes from the sky

A woman sits in a small airplane with headphones and a mic on, looking out the window at a bay on Lake Michigan Below.

Andrea VanderWoude on a flight over Grand Traverse Bay.

Andrea VanderWoude is a remote sensing specialist — that means she’s looking at things from far away. Whether she’s studying harmful algal blooms or rip currents, her job is to pull information out of pictures taken from airplanes or satellites. What makes her extra good at it? She’s got an artistic streak! Read on to learn more. 

How would you describe your job?

As a remote sensor, I use satellites and airborne cameras to monitor the Great Lakes – specifically harmful algal blooms, rip currents and submerged aquatic vegetation. I am an oceanographer working on the Great Lakes and most people wonder how that is possible. The lakes are so large they behave similarly to the ocean. I coordinate flights out of the Ann Arbor, Michigan airport with a contracted pilot that we work with and we put a small hyperspectral camera in the back of the airplane to take photos of the lakes.

Hyperspectral means that there are many discrete [color] bands or channels that are used (these colors are more detailed than the human eye can see). These channels can be used to map harmful algal blooms, which absorb, scatter and reflect light in a specific way. The hyperspectral camera is also able to fly underneath the clouds where passive sensors on satellites are unable to see. My day is spent programming, writing algorithms to process the images and looking at beautiful imagery. It is a wonderful blend of science and art!

What is the most interesting thing you’ve accomplished in your job?

Every year we fly over the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to monitor submerged aquatic vegetation and specifically for cladophora. As a northern Michigander growing up in that area, it is always amazing to see that area from the sky and to dream about hiking the Manitou Islands again. I also enjoy contributing to aiding the mapping of submerged aquatic vegetation in an area that is personally important to me.

What do you feel is the most significant challenge in your field today?

The most significant challenge I think is keeping up with the changing technology at the speed it is developing at this time. We are working on getting our new hyperspectral camera on an unmanned aerial system (UAS) for rapid response and I am really interested in using UAS’s for frequent monitoring of rip current troughs in the Great Lakes.

Where do you find inspiration? Where do your ideas come from in your research or other endeavors in your job?

I found my inspiration from growing up on the lakes and my parents always made a point of being on the water during all times of the year, either on Lake Michigan or Lake Superior. I have always felt connected to the water and jump in the lake during every month of the year, as a surfer on the Great Lakes. My ideas come from the public and what public needs could be supported. While living on the west side of Michigan, I have really seen the effect of rip currents and was recently stuck in one myself. It was a scary event and even furthered my desire to help warning and detection of rip currents.

How would you advise young women interested in science as a career path, or someone interested in your particular field?

I would advise women to get outside. When asked this question, people frequently turn towards an answer that involves STEM involvement but for me, and I think this also rings true for my Michigan Tech cohorts from undergrad, it was getting outside and learning about the natural world that sparked my interest in science. I was allowed to watch a limited amount of television as a kid and my mom would send me outside to play in the woods. I would spend my time creating forts around trees in the woods or we would go to the lake to swim for hours. This love of the outdoors continued through my undergraduate and graduate degrees with a curiosity to learn how the earth was formed, different rock types or how ocean dynamics and biology could be measured from space.

What do you like to do when you AREN’T sciencing?

I love to bake, learn about different plants, go rock hunting, trail running, rustic camping, stand up paddle boarding and I am newly returning to surfing but on the Great Lakes. I also spend an enormous amount of time with my boys on the beach, searching for cool rocks or treasures on the beach.

What do you wish people knew about scientists or research?

Many scientists also have an artistic outlet as well as their science life. It creates a life-balance. I personally find balance spending my free-time creating art from found objects on the beach, drawing, painting and baking unique pastries. Constantly a life in motion, as a pendulum between science and art.

Dr. Andrea VanderWoude is a contractor and remote sensing specialist with Cherokee Nation Businesses. She is currently working with researchers from NOAA GLERL and the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research.


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GLERL Ocean(lake)ographer Eric Anderson on watching the Straits of Mackinac

Eric Anderson, GLERL oceanographer, used to study the movement of fluid inside bone tissue — now he studies the movement of water in the Great Lakes.

Eric Anderson is NOAA GLERL’s resident oceanographer (but his Twitter handle is @lakeographer—you should trademark that one, Eric). At its core, his research centers around the movement of water. You might have seen our animations of currents in the Straits of Mackinac, or of meteotsunamis coming across Lake Michigan — he’s the guy behind those computer models.

Some cool things about Eric are that he plays the banjo, that he used to study the movement of fluid inside bone tissue, and that he’s quick to remind us people were watching the Straits of Mackinac millennia before his computer models existed. Read on to learn more cool things!

How would you describe your job?

My research is on hydrodynamics, which is a fancy way of saying the moving physical aspects of the water in the Great Lakes—things like currents, temperatures, ice, and waves. Most of my day is built around looking at measurements of the water and air and then developing computer models that simulate how the lakes respond to different weather conditions. This field of science is particularly helpful in safe navigation of the lakes, responding to contaminant spills, search and rescue operations, and understanding how the ecosystem responds to different lake conditions.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve accomplished in your job?

Maybe the most rewarding has been working on the Straits of Mackinac. It’s one of the most beautiful spots in the Great Lakes, but also one of the most dynamic, with high-speed currents changing every few days, if not hours. A groundswell of attention to the Straits in the last several years has pushed the public to get more engaged and learn about the conditions in the Straits, and I’ve been glad to help where I can.

As part of this work, we’ve found some 1600’s-era [settler] written accounts of the currents in the Straits. We also know that [Indigenous] people have been watching the Straits for thousands of years, and it’s rewarding to continue this thread of knowledge.

What do you feel is the most significant challenge in your field today?

It seems like the hardest thing is to communicate the science. People are starved for information, and there’s a real love out there for learning about the Great Lakes. All we can do is to try and keep the flow of information getting out to the folks who care, and just as important, to those who don’t think they care. When you see environmental science covered in the news, it’s usually reporting on something negative or even catastrophic, which is certainly important, but there are pretty cool discoveries being made routinely, big and small, and those don’t often seem to make it to the headlines. We have to keep working hard to make sure these stories make it out, and at the same time keep our ears open to the concerns that people have for the lakes.

Where do you find inspiration? Where do your ideas come from in your research or other endeavors in your job?

Inspiration is everywhere. Try to hike up to a good vantage point overlooking the lake, like the dunes or a bluff, and not feel inspired. More often, though, inspiration comes from talking with other people, whether scientists, students, or interested members of the public. I can’t think of a time where I’ve given a public seminar and not walked away with a new question or idea to investigate. People’s enthusiasm and bond with the Great Lakes is infectious, and so I try to tap into that as often as I can.

Two meteotsunamis, large waves caused by storm systems, came across Lake Michigan on April 13, 2018. Eric Anderson models meteotsunamis in his role as oceanographer at NOAA GLERL.

How would you advise high school students interested in science as a career path, or someone interested in your particular field?

I took somewhat of a winding career path to get where I’m at with GLERL, working in car assembly plants and then on the nano-fluidic flow inside bone tissue before ending up in physical oceanography. I didn’t really know what I wanted in high school or college, but I knew physics and math were where I felt at home. So I found a way to learn the fundamentals that I’ve been able to apply in each of these jobs, and that allowed me to explore different parts of science and engineering. Not everyone will have the same chances or opportunities, but if you can find a way to really solidify the fundamentals and just as importantly seek out a breadth of experiences, you’ll be in a better position when those opportunities do come along.

What do you like to do when you AREN’T sciencing?

I’m either hanging out with family, playing music, or talking with someone about how I wish I was playing more music.

What do you wish people knew about scientists or research?

By and large, science is curiosity driven, often fueled by the scientist’s own enthusiasm, and in my case also by the interests of the public. Whether it’s a new discovery, or re-codifying or quantifying something that others have observed for millennia, there’s no agenda here other than to understand what’s happening around us and share whatever pieces we can make sense of. I’ll add a sweeping generalization that scientists love to talk about their research, so don’t be afraid to ask.


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Great Lakes in winter: Water levels and ice cover

The Great Lakes, along with their connecting waterways and watersheds, make up the largest lake system on the planet—more than 20% of the world’s surface freshwater! Water levels on the lakes change in response to a number of factors, and these changes can happen quickly. Changing water levels can have both positive and negative impacts on shipping, fisheries, tourism, and coastal infrastructure like roads, piers, and wetlands.

Currently, water levels on all of the Great Lakes are above their monthly averages, and have been developing since the spring of 2013, when a record-setting two-year rise in water levels began on the upper Great Lakes. Extreme conditions in spring of 2017 produced flooding and widespread damage at the downstream end of the basin—Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. In case you missed it, check out our infographic on this flooding event.

So, what’s happening now that it’s winter?

As we entered the late fall-early winter of 2017-2018, a warm weather pattern had forecasters looking toward a fairly warm winter. However, in late December, the conditions changed and a much colder than normal weather pattern took many folks living in the Great Lakes by surprise. Much like how water levels can change quickly in the Great Lakes, so can ice cover. Due to frigid air temperatures, between December 20 and January 7, total ice cover on the lakes jumped 26.3%. Lake Erie alone jumped up to nearly 90%!

 

 

After January 7th, ice coverage dropped a bit as the air temperatures warmed, then rose again as temperatures went back down, showing again how vulnerable the lakes are to even the slightest changes. Compare where we are now to where we were 2 years ago at this time, and you’ll easily see how variable seasonal ice cover can be in the Great Lakes.

Image depicting Great Lakes total ice cover on on January 15, 2018, compared to 2017 and 2016.

What’s the outlook for ice and water levels?

Below, you’ll find what GLERL researchers expect to see for ice cover this winter, as well as the U.S. Army Corps’ water levels forecast into Spring 2018. Be sure to read further to find out more about the science that goes into these predictions!

—GLERL’s 2018 Seasonal Ice Cover Projection for the Great Lakes—

On 1/3/2018, NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory updated the maximum 2018 Great Lakes basinwide ice cover projection to 60%. The long-term average is 55%. The updated forecast reflects changes in teleconnection patterns (large air masses that determine our regional weather) since early December 2017—movement from a strong to a weak La Nina, a negative to a positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and a positive to a negative North Atlantic Oscillation. These patterns combine to create colder than average conditions for the Great Lakes.

—Water Levels forecast into spring 2018—

According to the most recent weekly water level update from the U.S. Army Corps, water levels for all of the Great Lakes continue to be above monthly average levels and above last year’s levels at this time. All of the lakes have declined in the last month.  Note that ice developing in the channels and on the lake surface can cause large changes in daily levels during the winter, especially for Lake St. Clair. Over the next month, Lake Superior and Lake Michigan-Huron are expected to continue their seasonal decline. Lake St.Clair, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario are expected to begin their seasonal rise.


 

More information on water levels and ice cover forecasting

How are water levels predicted in the Great Lakes?

Forecasts of Great Lakes monthly-average water levels are based on computer models, including some from NOAA GLERL, along with more than 150 years of data from past weather and water level conditions. The official 6-month forecast is produced each month through a binational partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

At GLERL, research on water levels in the Great Lakes analyzes all of the components of the Great Lakes water budget. The information we gather is used to improve forecast models. The infographic below goes into more detail about the Great Lakes water budget.

Image depicting the makeup of water budgets in the Great Lakes

How does winter ice cover affect water levels?

As mentioned in the recently released Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook for the Great Lakes, water levels in the Great Lakes tend to decline in late fall and early winter, mainly due to reduced runoff and streamflow combined with higher over-lake evaporation caused by the temperature difference between air and water. Factors such as surface water temperatures, long stretches of cold or warm air temperatures, and winds all impact the amount of lake ice cover as well as extreme winter events, such as lake-effect snow—which we’ve already seen plenty of this winter—and vice versa. All of these factors influence winter water levels in the Great Lakes. The timing and magnitude of snow melt and spring runoff will be major players in the spring rise.

Looking for more info?

You can find more about GLERL’s water levels research, on this downloadable .pdf of the GLERL fact sheet on Great Lakes Water Levels.

View current, historical, and projected water levels on the Great Lakes Water Levels Dashboard at https://www.glerl.noaa.gov/data/dashboard/portal.html.

For more on GLERL’s research on ice in the Great Lakes, check out the Great Lakes Ice fact sheet, or check out our website at https://www.glerl.noaa.gov/data/ice/.

Want to see a really cool graphic showing the extent of the maximum ice cover on the Great Lakes for each year since 1973? You’ll find that here.

 


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New algorithm to map Great Lakes ice cover

Leshkvich sampling ice

GLERL researcher, George Leshkevich, drilling through the ice in Green Bay, Lake Michigan.

NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) is on the cutting edge of using satellite remote sensing to monitor different types of ice as well as the ice cover extent. To make this possible, an algorithm—a mathematical calculation developed at GLERL to retrieve major Great Lakes ice types from satellite synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data—has been transferred to NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) for evaluation for operational implementation.

Once operational, the algorithm for Great Lakes ice cover mapping holds multiple applications that will advance marine resource management, lake fisheries and ecosystem studies, Great Lakes climatology, and ice cover information distribution (winter navigation).  Anticipated users of the ice mapping results include the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), U.S. National Ice Center (NIC), and the National Weather Service (NWS).

For satellite retrieval of key parameters (translation of satellite imagery into information on ice types and extent), it is necessary to develop algorithms specific to the Great Lakes owing to several factors:

  • Ocean algorithms often do not work well in time or space on the Great Lakes
  • Ocean algorithms often are not tuned to the parameters needed by Great Lakes stakeholders (e.g. ice types)
  • Vast difference exists in resolution and spatial coverage needs
  • Physical properties of freshwater differ from those of saltwater

The relatively high spatial and temporal resolution (level of detail) of SAR measurements, with its all-weather, day/night sensing capabilities, make it well-suited to map and monitor Great Lakes ice cover for operational activities. Using GLERL and Jet Propulsion Lab’s (JPL) measured library of calibrated polarimetric C-band SAR ice backscatter signatures, an algorithm was developed to classify and map major Great Lakes ice types using satellite C-band SAR data (see graphic below, Methodology for Great Lakes Ice Classification prototype).

ICECON (ice condition index) for the Great Lakes—a risk assessment tool recently developed for the Coast Guard—incorporates several physical factors including temperature, wind speed and direction, currents, ice type, ice thickness, and snow to determine 6 categories of ice severity for icebreaking operations and ship transit.  To support the ICECON ice severity index, the SAR ice type classification algorithm was modified to output ice types or groups of ice types, such as brash ice and pancake ice to adhere to and visualize the U.S. Coast Guards 6 ICECON categories. Ranges of ice thickness were assigned to each ice type category based on published freshwater ice nomenclature and extensive field data collection. GLERL plans to perform a demonstration/evaluation of the ICECON tool for the Coast Guard this winter.

Mapping and monitoring Great Lakes ice cover advances NOAA’s goals for a Weather-Ready Nation and Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies, and Safe Navigation. Results from this project, conducted in collaboration with Son V. Nghiem (NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory), will be made available to the user community via the NOAA Great Lakes CoastWatch website (https://coastwatch.glerl.noaa.gov).

 

ice-types

ICECON Scale

Measuring different ice types on Green Bay used to validate the ICECON (ice type classification) Scale in a RADARSAT-2 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) scene taken on February 26, 2017.

 


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Update on Lake Erie hypoxia forecasting stakeholder workshop (May 23, 2017)

Researchers partner with drinking water plant managers to forecast hypoxia in Lake Erie

By Devin Gill, Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research and Kristin Schrader, Great Lakes Observation Systems

Lake Erie’s “dead zone” not only impacts the lake’s ecosystem, but also poses challenges for managers of drinking water treatment facilities. The Lake Erie dead zone is a region of the central basin where oxygen levels within the water become extremely low, creating a condition known as hypoxia. Great Lakes researchers are sharing their scientific expertise to help managers be fully prepared for threats to drinking water resulting from hypoxic conditions.

Scientists from NOAA GLERL, Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR) and the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) met on May 23 in Cleveland, Ohio with water plant managers from the southern shore of Lake Erie for a stakeholder engagement workshop to discuss the hypoxia issue. An important focus of the workshop was the development of a new hypoxia forecast model that will act as an early warning system when hypoxic water has the potential to enter intakes of water treatment facilities. The depletion of oxygen in hypoxic water occurs when the water column stratifies (separates into warm and cold layers that don’t mix). Oxygen in the lower, cold layer becomes depleted from the lack of mixing with the upper (warm) layer that is exposed to air, as well as from the decomposition of organic matter (dead plants and animals) in the lower layer. The process of hypoxia is illustrated by GLERL’s infographic, The Story of Hypoxia.

Stakeholders who attended the workshop explained that water treatment operators must be prepared to respond quickly during a hypoxic event to ensure that drinking water quality standards are met. Hypoxic water often is associated with low pH and elevated manganese and iron. Manganese can cause discoloration of treated water, while low pH may require adjustment to avoid corrosion of water distribution pipes, which can introduce lead and copper into the water.

At the workshop, researchers shared information on lake processes that contribute to hypoxia and on development of the Lake Erie Operational Forecasting System that provides nowcasts and forecasting guidance of water levels, currents, and water temperature out to 120 hours, and is updated 4 times a day. Information was also shared on preliminary hypoxia modeling results that simulated an upwelling event (wind-driven motion in the Great Lakes, pushing cooler water towards the lake surface, replacing the warmer surface water) that brought hypoxic water to several water plant intakes in September, 2016. Water plant managers reported that advance notice of a potential upwelling event that could bring hypoxic water to their intakes would be useful to alert staff and potentially increase the frequency of testing for manganese.

Dr. Mark Rowe from University of Michigan, CIGLR, researcher and co-lead on this initiative, comments on the value of this hypoxia stakeholder engagement workshop: “At both NOAA and the University of Michigan, there is an increasing focus on co-design of research, which refers to involving the end-users of research results throughout the entire project, from concept to conclusion. If we succeed, a new forecast model will be developed that will be run by the operational branch of NOAA. This can only happen if there is a group of users who request it. This workshop provided critical information to the researchers regarding the needs of the water plants, while also informing water plant managers on how forecast models could potentially help them plan their operations, and on the latest scientific understanding of hypoxia in Lake Erie. ”

Stakeholder Scott Moegling, Water Quality Manager at City of Cleveland Division of Water, also recognizes the value of  engagement between the stakeholders and the Great Lakes researchers. Moegling points out that “the drinking water plant managers not only benefit from sharing of operational information and research, but also by establishing lines of communication between water utilities and researchers that help identify common areas of interest. The end result—researchers providing products that can be immediately used by water utilities—is of obvious interest to the water treatment industry on Lake Erie.”  Moegling also views the GLERL/CIGLR research on the hypoxia forecast model as holding great potential in predicting hypoxic conditions in Lake Erie and believes that once the model is developed and calibrated, there may be a number of other possibilities for highly useful applications.

In addition to sharing the latest research on hypoxia, the stakeholder engagement workshop provided a forum for water plant managers to share information with each other on how to recognize hypoxic events and efficiently adjust water treatment processes. Researchers at CIGLR and NOAA GLERL are committed to conduct research that serves society, and will continue to work with this stakeholder group over the course of the five-year project to develop a hypoxia forecast model that meets their needs.

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NOAA GLERL collaborating with partners to monitor the Lake Huron ecosystem

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The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) is participating in an international, multi-agency effort to study invasive species, water quality, fisheries, and climate change in Lake Huron this field season—pursuing key knowledge gaps in the ecosystem. The Coordinated Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI) coordinates across U.S. and Canadian agencies to conduct intensive sampling in one Great Lake per year, on a five-year cycle. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is administered by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is funding this research.

“While GLERL has had a long-term research program focused on Lake Michigan, we are using this initiative to advance long-term research on Lake Huron,” said GLERL Director Deborah Lee. “Invasive species, warming temperatures, and changes in nutrient loading are putting as much stress on Lake Huron as on Lake Michigan. We want to better understand the Lake Huron ecosystem and develop modeling tools to predict how the lake is changing.”

Henry Vanderploeg, Ph.D., chief of GLERL’s Ecosystem Dynamics research branch and lead researcher for GLERL’s efforts in the pelagic (open water) portion of the initiative comments, “GLERL plays a critical role in the CSMI, addressing key science questions. GLERL’s high frequency temporal and spatial sampling will help determine nutrient and energy flows from tributaries, nearshore to offshore. This type of data is critical to effectively manage Lake Huron for water quality and fish production.” Frequent spatial surveys are key to understanding food web connections throughout the seasons.

Researchers from GLERL  will expand upon their recent work in Lake Michigan (CSMI 2015) and past work in Huron (2012) to determine fine-scale food-web structure and function from phytoplankton to fishes along a nutrient-rich transect (from inner Saginaw Bay out to the 65-m deep Bay City Basin) and along a nutrient-poor transect (from inner Thunder Bay out to the Thunder Bay basin) during May, July, and September. GLERL will collect additional samples of fish larvae and zooplankton along both transects in June to help estimate larvae growth, diet, density, and mortality and to identify fish recruitment bottlenecks.

“GLERL was instrumental in establishing the long-term monitoring efforts that provide the foundation for current CSMI food-web studies,” said Ashley Elgin, Ph.D., research ecologist in the Ecosystem Dynamics research branch. Elgin serves as the NOAA representative on the CSMI Task Team, part of the Great Lakes Water Quality Act Annex 10, alongside partners from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), EPA, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the Ontario Ministries of Natural Resources and the Environment and Climate Change. This year, Elgin is conducting critical mussel growth field experiments in Lake Huron, expanding upon work she developed in Lake Michigan.  She will be addressing the following questions: (1) How does quagga mussel growth differ between regions with different nutrient inputs?; and (2) How do growth rates compare between Lakes Michigan and Huron? Elgin will also coordinate a whole-lake benthic survey, which will update the status of dreissenid mussels and other benthic-dwelling organisms in Lake Huron.  

GLERL’s key research partner, the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR), will deploy a Slocum glider for a total of sixteen weeks to collect autonomous measurements of temperature, chlorophyll, colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM), and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) between outer Saginaw Bay and open waters of the main basin.  Deployment times and coverage will be coordinated with other glider deployments by the EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD) and/or USGS Great Lakes Science Center, spatial research cruises, and periods of expected higher nutrient loads (i.e., following runoff events).  

CSMI research cruises began in late April and will continue through September. Researchers are using an impressive fleet of research vessels, including EPA’s 180-foot R/V Lake Guardian, GLERL’s 80-foot R/V Laurentian and 50-foot R/V Storm, and two large USGS research vessels, the R/V Articus and R/V Sterling. Sampling missions will also be conducted aboard Environment Canada’s Limnos across Lake Huron. The Laurentian is fitted out with a variety of advanced sensors and sampling gear, making it especially suitable for examining fine-scale spatial structure.

Scientists from the USGS Great Lakes Science Center, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the University of Michigan are also participating in the Lake Huron CSMI.


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“Just Because the Blooms in Lake Erie Slow Down, Doesn’t Mean We Do”

NOAA GLERL harmful algal blooms research program featured on Detroit Public Television

As part of a series on The Blue Economy of the Great Lakes, NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) is featured in a short video, produced by Detroit Public Television (DPTV) and published on the DPTV website. The video, which features GLERL and its partners from the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR, known formerly as CILER), describes the advanced technology GLERL uses to monitor, track, predict, and understand harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the Great Lakes. More specifically, the video focuses on efforts in Lake Erie, where over 400,000 people were affected by a 3-day shutdown of the Toledo drinking water treatment facility in 2014. Since then, GLERL and CIGLR have enhanced their HABs research program—much of which is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, or GLRI—to include cutting-edge technologies such as the hyperspectral sensors and an Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), as well as experimental forecasting tools like the Lake Erie HAB Tracker.

In addition to online coverage, the video will be broadcast via DPTV at a future time, yet to be determined.

View the video above, or visit http://bit.ly/2pK2g0J.

Aerial photo survey improves NOAA GLERL’s Lake Erie ice model

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Understanding the duration, extent, and movement of Great Lakes ice is important for the Great Lakes maritime industry, public safety, and the recreational economy. Lake Erie is ice-prone, with maximum cover surpassing 80% many winters.

Multiple times a day throughout winter, GLERL’s 3D ice model predicts ice thickness and concentration on the surface of Lake Erie. The output is available to the public, but the model is under development, meaning that modelers still have research to do to get it to better reflect reality.

As our scientists make adjustments to the model, they need to compare its output with actual conditions so they know that it’s getting more accurate. So, on January 13th of this year, they sent a plane with a photographer to fly the edge of the lake and take photos of the ice.

The map below shows the ice model output for that day, along with the plane’s flight path and the location of the 172 aerial photos that were captured.

NOAA GLERL Lake Erie ice model output with all aerial photo survey locations -- January 13, 2017. Credit NOAA GLERL/Kaye LaFond.

NOAA GLERL Lake Erie ice model output with all aerial photo survey locations — January 13, 2017. Map Credit NOAA GLERL/Kaye LaFond.

These photos provide a detailed look at the sometimes complex ice formations on the lake, and let our scientists know if there are places where the model is falling short.

Often, the model output can also be compared to images and surface temperature measurements taken from satellites. That information goes into the GLSEA product on our website (this is separate from the ice model). GLSEA is useful to check the ice model with. However, it’s important to get this extra information.

“These photographs not only enable us to visualize the ice field when satellite data is not available, but also allow us to recognize the spatial scale or limit below which the model has difficulty in simulating the ice structures.” says Eric Anderson, an oceanographer at GLERL and one of the modelers.

 “This is particularly evident near the Canadian coastline just east of the Detroit River mouth, where shoreline ice and detached ice floes just beyond the shoreline are not captured by the model. These floes are not only often at a smaller spatial scale than the model grid, but also the fine scale mechanical processes that affect ice concentration and thickness in this region are not accurately represented by the model physics.”

Click through the images below to see how select photos compared to the model output. To see all 172 photos, check out our album on Flickr. The photos were taken by Zachary Haslick of Aerial Associates.

 

This gallery contains 10 photos


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Arrival of wave GLIDER SV2 platforms to expand GLERL data collection capacity in the Great Lakes

Left and bottom right: OSAT staff learning the ropes on the Wave GLIDER SV2 during a three-day training in Kawaihae, Hawaii. Top right: CILER’s Russ Miller (left) and GLERL’s Kyle Beadle (right) work in GLERL’s laboratory to prepare the newly acquired Wave GLIDERS for deployment.

GLERL’s OSAT (Observing Systems and Advance Technology) team, in collaboration with the Michigan Technological University’s (MTU) Great Lakes Research Center, is preparing to deploy the Wave GLIDER SV2 to expand its monitoring capacity in the Great Lakes. The Wave GLIDER functions as an autonomous surface vehicle that uses wave energy propulsion and communicates via Iridium satellite, providing real-time data back to users. This wave powered vehicle can be fitted with numerous instruments to collect data on a variety of physical characteristics of the lakes, including: waves, CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth), and currents. These data can be used for remote sensing algorithm validation. With the instrumentation on board, the Wave GLIDER  can continuously run transects throughout much of the year in all Great Lakes weather conditions and can be piloted and monitored by researchers at GLERL.

The two Liquid Robotics-designed Wave Glider SV2 platforms, to be deployed in the upcoming field season ,were surplused to GLERL by NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center (NBDC) in FY 2016. To ensure safe and reliable operation of these persistent, autonomous data collection platforms, Steve Constant and Steve Ruberg participated in a three-day training in Kawaihae, Hawaii at the Liquid Robotics Training Center this past January. They were accompanied by colleagues Russ Miller (Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER)), Jamey Anderson (MTU), and Chris Pinnow (MTU). The training focused on instrument assembly, care, programming, piloting, and deployment and retrieval of the newly acquired wave glider units.

The vehicles, as currently configured, will be used for real-time observations supporting commercial shipping and validation of operational forecasts and satellite remote sensing products. Future applications include mapping of hypoxic zones impacting drinking water and acoustic fisheries parameters in U.S. coastal and Great Lakes regions.

NOAA booth at annual American Meteorological Society meeting.


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GLERL researchers heading to AMS 2017

The American Meteorological Society’s Annual Meeting (AMS 2017) is upon us and researchers from GLERL and CILER (the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research), along with other partners, are hitting the grounds running on Monday with posters and presentations on climate, ice, HABs, modeling, forecasting, transitioning research to ops, and more!

Here’s a schedule of where you’ll find us throughout the week. (GLERL and CILER researchers highlighted in italics. Poster titles linked to .pdf of poster, if available.) And, don’t forget to swing by the NOAA booth (#405) to check out all of the fantastic work that NOAA scientists are doing around the world!


GLERL and CILER posters and presentations during AMS 2017

Monday, 23 January 2017

The Great Lakes Adaptation Data Suite: Providing a Coherent Collection of Climate Data for the Great Lakes Region
Type: Poster
Location: 4E (Washington State Convention Center), Poster #1
Authors: Omar C. Gates, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; and K. Channell, D. Brown, W. Baule, D. J. Schwab, C. Riseng, and A. Gronewold

Abstract: Climate change impacts are a growing concern for researchers and adaptation professionals throughout society. These individuals look to different data sources in order to contemplate the challenges that are present from climate impacts. The use of observational data helps to understand which climatic factors exploit vulnerabilities and to develop solutions to make systems more resilient. However, non-uniform data collection and processing often hinders the progress towards such a goal because many publicly-accessible data sets are not readily usable to address the concern of climate impacts on societies. In the Great Lakes region, there is the added challenge of data quality and coverage issues for over-lake versus over-land observations. The creation of the Great Lakes Adaptation Data Suite (GLADS) aims to resolve these dilemmas by providing processed over-land and over-lake observations within one suite for the Great Lakes region of North America, and this data suite is provided to individuals with a vested interest in decision-making for climate resilience. This intent serves as a way for the GLADS to engage with individuals, from various backgrounds, that are interested in incorporating climate information into their work. Feedback from this audience will be analyzed to further improve the GLADS for use in decision-making. Further analysis will look at the connections among potential users and how they perceive the GLADS as being a useful tool for their research. By gaining perspective into the individuals’ expectations of the tool and their understanding of climate information, the GLADS will be able to accommodate the necessary steps for integrating climate information into decision-making processes to mitigate climate impacts.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Coupling Effects Between Unstructured WAVEWATCH III and FVCOM in Shallow Water Regions of the Great Lakes
Type: Presentation
Time: 9:15 AM
Locations: Conference Center: Chelan 4 (Washington State Convention Center )
Authors: Jian Kuang, IMSG@NOAA/NWS/NCEP, College Park, MD; and A. J. Van der Westhuysen, E. J. Anderson, G. Mann, A. Fujisaki, and J. G. W. Kelley

Abstract: The modeling of waves in shallow environments is challenging because of irregular coastlines and bathymetry, as well as complicated meteorological forcing. In this paper, we aim to provide insight into the physics of storm surge-wave interaction within shallow water regions of the Great Lakes under strong wind events. Extensive hindcast analysis using the 3D-circulation model FVCOM v3.2.2 and the third generation spectral wave model WAVEWATCH III v4.18 was conducted on unstructured meshes for each of the Great Lakes. The circulation and wave models are coupled through a file-transfer method and tested with various coupling intervals. We conducted tests for five short-term (storm length) test cases and three long-term (seasonal) test cases. Time series, spatial plots and statistics are provided. Data exchange of radiation stress, water elevation and ocean currents were tested in both two-way and one-way coupling regimes in order to assess the influence of each variable. Three types of wave current parametrizations will be discussed (surface layer, depth-averaged, and hybrid). The meteorological input forcing fields are 1km/4km/12km WRF model results with time interval of 1h for 4km/12km resolution and 10min for 1km resolution. Statistical analysis was performed in order to evaluate the model sensitivity on the unstructured domain in terms of wind, physics packages and surge-wave coupling effects. These efforts are towards an assessment of the model configuration with a view toward future operational implementation.

Linking Hydrologic and Coastal Hydrodynamic Models in the Great Lakes
Type: Presentation
Time: 2:00pm
Location: Conference Center – Chelan 4 (Washington State Convention Center)
Authors: Eric J. Anderson, NOAA/ERL/GLERL, Ann Arbor, MI; and A. Gronewold, L. Pei, C. Xiao, L. E. Fitzpatrick, B. M. Lofgren, P. Y. Chu, T. Hunter, D. J. Gochis, K. Sampson, and A. Dugger

Abstract: As the next-generation hydrologic and hydrodynamic forecast models are developed, a strong emphasis is placed on model coupling and the expansion to ecological forecasting in coastal regions. The next-generation NOAA Great Lakes Operational Forecast System (GLOFS) is being developed using the Finite Volume Community Ocean Model (FVCOM) to provide forecast guidance for traditional requirements such as navigation, search and rescue, and spill response, as well as to provide a physical backbone for ecological forecasts of harmful algal blooms, hypoxia, and pathogens. However, to date operational coastal hydrodynamic models have minimal or no linkage to hydrologic inflows and forecast information. As the new National Water Model (NWM) is developed using the Weather Research and Forecasting Hydrologic model (WRF-Hydro) to produce forecast stream flows at nearly 2.7 million locations, important questions arise about model coupling between the NWM and coastal models (e.g. FVCOM), how this linkage will impact forecast guidance in systems such as GLOFS, and how WRF-Hydro stream flows compare to existing products. In this study, we investigate hindcasted WRF-Hydro stream flows for the Great Lakes as compared to existing legacy research models. These hydrological stream flows are then linked with the next-generation FVCOM models, where the impacts to hydrodynamic forecast guidance can be evaluated. This study is a first step in coupling the next-generation NWM with NOAA’s operational coastal hydrodynamic models.

Regional Hydrological Response from Statistically Downscaled Future Climate Projections in the 21st Century
Type: Poster
Location: 4E (Washington State Convention Center), Poster #462
Authors: Lisi Pei, NOAA, Ann Arbor, MI; and A. Gronewold, T. Hunter, and R. Bolinger

Abstract: Understanding how future climate change signals propagate into hydrological response is critical for water supply forecasting and water resources management. To demonstrate how this understanding can be improved at regional scales, we studied the hydrological response of the Laurentian Great Lakes under future climate change scenarios in the 21st century using a conventional regional hydrological modeling system (the Great Lakes Advanced Hydrologic Prediction System, or GL-AHPS) forced by statistically downscaled CMIP5 (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5) future projections. The Great Lakes serve as a unique case study because they constitute the largest bodies of fresh surface water on Earth, and because their basin is bisected by the international border between the United States and Canada, a feature that complicates water level and runoff modeling and forecasting. The GL-AHPS framework is specifically designed to address these unique challenges. Existing model validation results indicate that the GL-AHPS model framework provides reasonable simulation of historical seasonal water supplies, but has significant deficiencies on longer time scales. A major component of this study, therefore, includes reformulating key algorithms within the GL-AHPS system (including those governing evapotranspiration), and assessing the benefits of those improvements.

Reconstructing Evaporation over Lake Erie during the Historic November 2014 Lake Effect Snow Event
Type: Poster
Location: 4E (Washington State Convention Center), Poster #898
Authors: Lindsay E. Fitzpatrick, CILER, Ann Arbor, MI; and A. Manome, A. Gronewold, E. J. Anderson, C. Spence, J. Chen, C. Shao, D. M. Wright, B. M. Lofgren, C. Xiao, D. J. Posselt, and D. J. Schwab

Abstract: The extreme North American winter storm of November 2014 triggered a record lake effect snowfall event in southwest New York, which resulted in 14 fatalities, stranded motorists, and caused power outages. While the large-scale atmospheric conditions of the descending polar vortex are believed to be responsible for the significant lake effect snowfall over the region, to-date there has not yet been an assessment of how state-of-the-art numerical models performed in simulating evaporation from Lake Erie, which is tied to the accuracy in forecasting lake effect snow.

This study examined the evaporation from Lake Erie during the record lake effect snowfall event, November 17th-20th, 2014, by reconstructing heat fluxes and evaporation rates over Lake Erie using the unstructured grid, Finite-Volume Community Ocean Model (FVCOM). Nine different model runs were conducted using combinations of three different flux algorithms: the Met Flux Algorithm (COARE), a method routinely used at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (SOLAR), and the Los Alamos Sea Ice Model (CICE); and three different meteorological forcings: the Climate Forecast System version 2 Operational Analysis (CFSv2), Interpolated observations (Interp), and the High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR). A few non-FVCOM model outputs were also included in the evaporation analysis from an atmospheric reanalysis (CFSv2) and the large lake thermodynamic model (LLTM). Model-simulated water temperature and meteorological forcing data (wind direction and air temperature) were validated with buoy data at three locations in Lake Erie. The simulated sensible and latent heat fluxes were validated with the eddy covariance measurements at two offshore sites; Long Point Lighthouse in north central Lake Erie and Toledo water crib intake in western Lake Erie. The evaluation showed a significant increase in heat fluxes over three days, with the peak on the 18th of November. Snow water equivalent data from the National Snow Analyses at the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center showed a spike in water content on the 20th of November, two days after the peak heat fluxes. The ensemble runs presented a variation in spatial pattern of evaporation, lake-wide average evaporation, and resulting cooling of the lake. Overall, the evaporation tended to be larger in deep water than shallow water near the shore. The lake-wide average evaporations from CFSv2 and LLTM are significantly smaller than those from FVCOM. The variation among the nine FVCOM runs resulted in the 3D mean water temperature cooling in a range from 3 degrees C to 5 degrees C (6-10 EJ loss in heat content), implication for impacts on preconditioning for the upcoming ice season.

Projecting Water Levels of the Laurentian Great Lakes in the 21st Century from a Dynamical Downscaling Perspective
Type: Presentation
Time: 11:15 AM
Locations: 602 (Washington State Convention Center)
Authors: Chuliang Xiao, University of Michigan, CILER, Ann Arbor, MI; and B. M. Lofgren, J. Wang, P. Y. Chu, and A. Gronewold

Abstract: As the largest group of fresh surface water bodies on earth, the Laurentian Great Lakes have a significant influence on regional climate. Due to the limited spatial resolution of general circulation models (GCMs), the Great Lakes are generally ignored in GCMs. Thus, the technique of dynamical downscaling serves as a practical and important, but challenging solution to the problem of understanding climate impacts and hydrological response in this unique region. Here, we employed the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) with an updated lake scheme to downscale from a GCM with two future greenhouse gas concentration scenarios in the 21st century. Historical validation shows that the WRF-Lake model, with a fine horizontal resolution and a 1-dimensional lake representation, improves the hydroclimatology simulation in terms of seasonal cycles of lake surface temperature, precipitation, and ice coverage. Based on the downscaling results, a hydrologic routing model is performed to project the Great Lakes’ water level changes in 21st century using net basin supply (NBS, calculated as the sum of over-lake precipitation, basin-wide runoff, and lake evaporation) as an input. As the lakes warm and lake ice diminishes, water levels are projected to have persistent and enhanced interannual variations in the presumed climate change. These changes have a range of potential socioeconomic impacts in the Great Lakes region, including changes in hydropower capacity, the length of the commercial shipping season, and the design life of coastal residences and infrastructure.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Simulating and Forecasting Seasonal Ice Cover
Type: Poster, #1147
Authors: Xiaolong Ji, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; and H. Daher, R. Bolinger, A. Gronewold, and R. B. Rood

Abstract: Over the past several decades, dramatic changes in the spatial extent of seasonal and long-term ice cover have been documented for both marine and continential (inland) water bodies. Successfully projecting (and planning for) future changes in global ice cover requires an understanding of the drivers behing these historical changes. Here, we explore relationships between continental climate patterns and regional ice cover across the vast surface waters of the Laurentian Great Lakes. The Great Lakes constitute the largest collective surface of freshwater on Earth, and seasonal variability in ice cover is closely linked with lake heat content, energy fluxes, and water levels (all of which have strong linkages with ecological and socioeconomic stability in the region). Our findings indicate that abrupt historical changes in Great Lakes seasonal ice cover are coincident with historical changes in teleconnections, including both the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). We find, in particular, that these teleconnections explain much of the ice cover decline in the late 1990s (coincident with the strong 1997-1998 winter El Nino) and the following persistent period of below-average period of ice that followed. We encode these relationships in a probabilistic model that provides seasonal projections of ice cover areal extent across the Great Lakes, as well as specific spatiotemporal patterns in ice cover at resolutions that align with critical regional human health and safety-related management decisions.

What Does It Take to Transition Six Forecasting Systems into Operations in Ten Years? — Lessons Learned, Myths and Facts
Type: Presentation
Time: 11:15 AM
Location: 608 (Washington State Convention Center)
Authors: Philip Y. Chu, GLERL, Ann Arbor, MI; and E. J. Anderson, G. Lang, J. G. W. Kelley, E. Myers, A. Zhang, J. Xu, and Y. Chen

Abstract: NOAA Great Lakes Operational Forecasting System (GLOFS), developed by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and National Ocean Service, has been operational since 2005. A project to upgrade GLOFS, using FVCOM as the core 3-D oceanographic forecast model, has been conducted during the past 3 years involving GLERL, NOS/CSDL and CO-OPS and NCEP Central Operations. The 1st phase of this project has been completed with the operational implementation of a new GLOFS version for Lake Erie on NOAA’s Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputer System in May 2016.

Many lessons were learned from transitioning six forecasting systems to operations in 10 years. On the technical aspects which include hardware, software, systems — we found that keys to successful transition are on 1) methods to harden the software infrastructure to make a robust, automated system; 2) backup and alternative procedures for handling missing or corrupted input data; 3) standardized validation and skill assessment metrics; 4) preparation of complete documentation including validation test reports, standard operating procedures (SOP), and software user guides; 5) adequate near-real-time observations of discharge, and water levels to provide LBCs for the system and 6) field projects in the Great Lakes (i.e. IFYGL) to provide surface and subsurface data for the evaluation of the forecast models during development and testing. In particular, program source codes need to be frozen during the testing, validation and the transition period with proper version control.

In addition to the technical aspects, a successful system transition from the research/development stage into operations also involves non-technical aspects, such as commitment from senior leadership, frequent communications among all involved parties on progress and milestones, training sessions for the system operators and user engagement workshops for the end users.

Applying WRF-Hydro in the Great Lakes Basin: Offline Simulations in the Seasonal Hydrological Responses
Type: Presentation
Time: 4:45 PM
Location: Conference Center – Chelan 2 (Washington State Convention Center )
Authors: Lisi Pei, NOAA, Ann Arbor, MI; and A. Gronewold, D. J. Gochis, K. Sampson, A. Dugger, C. Xiao, L. Mason, B. M. Lofgren, and P. Y. Chu

Abstract: As a unified atmosphere-land hydrological modeling system, the WRF-Hydro (Weather Research and Forecasting model Hydrological modeling extension package) framework is being employed by the NOAA-National Water Center (NWC, Tuscaloosa, AL) to provide streamflow forecasting over the entire CONUS in 250 m resolution from hourly to monthly scale. Currently, efforts are focused on tests and an operational forecast launch on August 16th, 2016. But due to inconsistencies in the land surface hydrographic datasets between U.S. and Canada over the Great Lakes Basin, many of the tributaries feeding the Great Lakes and the major channels connecting the Great Lakes (including the Niagara, St. Clair, and Detroit Rivers) are missing or poorly represented in the current NWC streamflow forecasting domain. Improvements in the model’s current representation of lake physics and stream routing are also critical for WRF-Hydro to adequately simulate the Great Lakes water budget and Great Lakes coastal water levels. To customize WRF-Hydro to the Laurentian Great Lakes Basin using protocols consistent with those used for the current CONUS operational domain, the NOAA-Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory has partnered with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and other agencies to develop land surface hydrographic datasets and compatible stream routing grids that connect to the current CONUS operational domain. This research group is also conducting 1-km resolution offline tests with WRF-Hydro based on current best available bi-national land surface geographic datasets to examine the model’s ability to simulate seasonal hydrological response over the Great Lakes (runoff and land-atmosphere fluxes) with its coupled overland flow terrain-routing module, subsurface lateral flow module and channel flow (runoff) module.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Using the Next-Generation Great Lakes Operational Forecasting System (GLOFS) to Predict Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Transport with the HAB Tracker
Type: Presentation
Time: 3:30 PM
Location: 611 (Washington State Convention Center)
Authors: Eric J. Anderson, NOAA/ERL/GLERL, Ann Arbor, MI; and M. Rowe, J. Xu, A. Zhang, G. Lang, J. G. W. Kelley, and R. Stumpf

Abstract: Harmful algal blooms (HAB) plague coastal environments around the world, and particularly in the United States in areas such as the Great Lakes, Florida, Washington, and Maine. In the Great Lakes, shallow embayments such as the western basin of Lake Erie have experienced a period of increasing HAB intensity in recent years, including an event in 2014 where high toxicity levels resulted in a drinking water restriction to nearly 400,000 residents. In order to help decision makers and the public respond to these events, an experimental model has been developed short-term forecasts of HAB concentration and transport. The HAB Tracker uses the next-generation NOAA Lake Erie Operational Forecast System (LEOFS), which is based on the Finite Volume Community Ocean Model (FVCOM). The new FVCOM-based LEOFS model produces hydrodynamic forecast guidance out to 5 days using meteorology from the 3-km HRRR and 2.5 km NDFD. An experimental version of this model also extends the forecast horizon out to 10 days using forecasted meteorology from the GFS. Hourly hydrodynamic conditions (currents, diffusivity, water temperature) are supplied to a three-dimensional Lagrangian particle trajectory model that has been developed to predict HAB transport and vertical migration through the water column. Initial conditions are provided by satellite remote sensing of surface chlorophyll concentration, when available, in which previous nowcasts are used to fill gaps in satellite-derived HAB extent and extend surface concentrations into the water column to produce a three-dimensional field of HAB concentration. In-situ observations of microcystis concentration provide a calibration of particle buoyancy (i.e. colony migration) and a basis for model validation. Results show the three-dimensional HAB Tracker has improved forecast skill out to 10 days over two-dimensional surface concentration forecast products and is better than a persistence forecast out to 5 days.