Webcam equipped buoy provides Great Lakes data for forecasters, anglers

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A newly activated webcam on a Lake Michigan buoy can help forecasters and fishermen get a better sense of weather and water.

This buoy is the first of its kind in the Great Lakes, said Ed Verhamme,a project engineer with LimnoTech, the engineering firm that will maintain the buoy through 2015.

Every ten minutes the buoy reports the average wind speed, direction, gusts, air temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, wave height and water temperature. Additional sensors measure and report rainfall and hail intensity.

The webcam is a new feature that will help verify the data that the buoy measures.

The buoy is stationed in Lake Michigan, between Holland and Grand Haven. Photo: Great Lakes Observing System

The buoy is stationed in Lake Michigan, between Holland and Grand Haven. Photo: Great Lakes Observing System

“The webcam offers a quick glance,” Verhamme explained. “You can get a good feel from the numbers, but a picture’s worth a thousand words. Or in this case, a thousand data points.”

For example, Verhamme said, the buoy measures wave heights — but by looking at the webcam footage, boaters can see if waves are chaotic, or if there are white caps.

Data from the buoy can be viewed online, and clips from the buoy’s webcam can be found on the LimnoTech website. The above footage, taken from the webcam in May, shows a wavy Lake Michigan at dusk.

The buoy is a joint project of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Great Lakes Observing System, and LimnoTech. It’s stationed between Holland and Grand Haven, Mich, about 85 miles from shore.

“Real-time data from a buoy in the nearshore zone is invaluable for checking the validity of our marine forecasts,” Bob Dukesherer, senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids, said in a news release.

It also provides lead time on hazardous weather for boaters and swimmers,  he said.

The buoy will also be an asset to Great Lakes anglers, who can use the water temperature data to better pinpoint fish in specific temperature zones, said Verhamme.

“It can help Michigan fishermen who are looking for a certain temperature break,” he said. “Let’s say they want to know where and at what depth the water is 50 degrees. They can hop online and see it.

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