By CELESTE BOTT
Capital News Service
LANSING — A newly activated webcam on a Lake Michigan buoy can help forecasters and anglers get a better sense of weather and water.
The buoy is the first of its kind in the Great Lakes, said Edward Verhamme, a project engineer with LimnoTech, the Ann Arbor-based engineering firm that will maintain the buoy through 2015.
Every 10 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 helps verify the data that the buoy measures.
“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 whitecaps.
Data from the buoy can be viewed online, and clips from the buoy’s webcam can be found on the LimnoTech website.
The buoy is a joint project of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Great Lakes Observing System and LimnoTech. It’s stationed between Holland and Grand Haven, 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,” said Bob Dukesherer, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids.
It also provides lead time on hazardous weather alerts for boaters and swimmers.
Verhamme 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.
“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.”
Anyone interested in lake conditions can also send a text message to 734-418-7299 with 45029 in the body to get the latest buoy results.
The buoy will remain in Lake Michigan through fall of 2015.
“We’ve been averaging about 35,000 unique hits per month, so there’s a lot of people interested in seeing what’s happening on the water,” Verhamme said.
LimnoTech has a second buoy cam on Lake Erie, about 6 miles southeast of Monroe.
LimnoTech has applied for a NOAA grant to continue to fund the Monroe buoy and a third Lake Michigan buoy off St. Joseph that doesn’t yet have a webcam.
Celeste Bott writes for Great Lakes Echo.