John Taylor of the National Weather Service uses the data to forecast weather
For John Taylor and his colleagues, the Michigan City buoy provides the real-time environmental data needed by the National Weather Services (NWS) offices in northern Indiana to predict the lake’s coastal weather and ensure that existing forecasting strategies are effective. Changes in temperatures over the lake and along the shoreline make Lake Michigan a tough environment to forecast, but the large number of people that visit the area during the summer months makes correct predictions critical.
NWS keeps a particularly close eye on wave height and frequency data collected from the buoy. Observing real-time changes in wave characteristics helps meteorologists like Taylor better anticipate where rip currents are likely to cause dangerous swimming conditions. Rip currents are responsible for an average of three to five drownings each summer in the Indiana waters of Lake Michigan. Armed with up-to-date information on the safety of the lakeshore, NWS relies on the buoy to help visitors to Michigan City and the Indiana dunes protect themselves from the hazards of rip currents.
The buoy is also expected to uncover new information on weather and current patterns in nearshore water by giving researchers a look into the understudied shoreline of Lake Michigan.
“You never know what you are going to learn,” said Taylor, “but I am pretty sure that someone will come up with something that we didn’t know before. That is how the science works.”
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