LAKE MICHIGAN WATER AND WEATHER CONDITIONS AVAILABLE ONLINE - Innovative sensing buoy deployed by Cook Nuclear Plant provides real-time data

BRIDGMAN, Mich., May 22, 2012 – For the second straight year, real-time lake conditions and weather data on Lake Michigan are once again available to the public on the internet thanks to an innovative environmental sensing buoy located off-shore of the Cook Nuclear Plant. In 2011, Indiana Michigan Power contracted LimnoTech, an Ann Arbor-based company specializing in Great Lakes monitoring and modeling, to deploy and maintain the buoy. The buoy was re-launched for the 2012 season earlier this month.

Data generated from the buoy will be used for a multi-year environmental study of Lake Michigan, and by the Cook Plant for engineering studies on possible improvements to the plant’s water intake system. The buoy is equipped with a range of high-tech instruments that can transmit air temperature, wind speed and direction, water current speed and direction, wave height and water temperature at several depths below the surface.

“We know the data we are collecting for our project could be useful for fishing, pleasure boating, search and rescue operations and weather-watchers,” said Kirk Newell, project manager for Cook. “This was a great collaboration of Michigan companies and non-profit organizations that really benefits the public.”

The buoy is located two and one half miles from the shore in 70 feet of water and will remain in operation through the fall. Implementation may be extended for subsequent years. Information about the buoy and a link to real-time data is available at http://bit.ly/cookbuoy.  

LimnoTech is currently working directly with the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to increase the number of environmental sensors in the Great Lakes and to improve the availability of the data to water quality managers and the public. The data from the buoy will be streamed every 10 minutes to GLOS, the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) operated by NOAA, and the University of Michigan’s Upper Great Lakes Observing System (UGLOS).

Data will be used directly by forecasters at the National Weather Service (NWS) offices in Northern Indiana and Grand Rapids, Mich. to improve predictions of hazardous weather including high waves and rip currents along the shoreline. Rip currents are particularly dangerous for local swimmers who are often unaware of the hidden threats these currents pose. Together, both offices are responsible for monitoring weather conditions along 240 miles of shoreline from Manistee, Mich. to Michigan City, Ind.

 “Until recently, we’ve had to rely on data collected from buoys in the middle of the lake where conditions may be different,” said Mike Sabones, Meteorologist-in-Charge of the Northern Indiana National Weather Service Office. “Buoys like this one will greatly improve our ability to predict dangerous rip currents at beaches in Berrien County and for wave forecasting for mariners on Lake Michigan.”

Data from the buoy will also feed Coast Guard information systems (via the NDBC) used to respond to distress calls from local boaters, enabling them to quickly assess wind and wave conditions before leaving port. Local boaters, fishermen, and swimmers can access the same information to make the decision whether to go out on the water or not. Local fishermen can view the temperature profile in real time to better pinpoint fishing hot spots and temperature bands that lake trout and salmon follow. This will save on gas and improve the catch rate for recreational and commercial fishermen.

“I campaigned to those who’d listen for a webcam on the lake,” said Buchanan fisherman Ned Garner. “The buoy is so much better than a webcam. We get much more objective information, including wind, wave height, time period, temperature, etc. We fishermen couldn’t have dreamed for better or more information before venturing out on the lake.”


Dave Lefor
Cook Nuclear Plant
(269) 466-2921

Ed Verhamme
(734) 332-1200

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