New buoy system will monitor Lake Superior weather and waves

MARQUETTE — A collaborative project in the central U.P. is hoping to boost weather preparedness along the coast of Lake Superior.

Northern Michigan University, in conjunction with the Superior Watershed Partnership and environmental consulting company LimnoTech, recently received a Great Lakes Observing System grant for $100,000 to fund the installation of a new set of buoys on the southern coast of Lake Superior.

“So we’re putting two buoys out. One will be about 5 miles north of Munising off of Grand Island, so it will be able to get wave data and weather data for Pictured Rocks and all [of] the Munising area,” said Norma Froelich, assistant professor at NMU’s Department of Earth, Environmental, and Geographical Sciences, “and then the other one — well, the first year we’re going to be putting it by Granite Island here near Marquette, and then in subsequent years it will probably and be put near Grand Marais and then near Whitefish Point as well.”

The project was created to provide additional data for coastal weather events, both to benefit weather prediction and the rescue efforts of groups like the U.S. Coast Guard. Data collected between May and November each year will be available to the public in near real–time via website and mobile app, and NMU students will also be able to use the real–world data in their classes.

The group is working to purchase the buoys and develop the web infrastructure over the winter in hopes of launching this coming spring.

“Either April or May, depending how soon the ice gets off the lake, we’ll be able to put it out and have the whole thing up and running,” added Froelich.

The grant will cover installation, as well as operation and maintenance of the project for its first two years. After that, the group will be looking internally or possibly to the community for help in keeping the project running.

A forum regarding the project is scheduled for Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at the Falling Rock Cafe in Munising. Community members are invited to hear information about the system and share their input.