Monday, September 17, 2012

It's a buoy! Real-time data comes to Indiana

The lonely life of buoy 45007. (Photo from
For many years, buoy 45007 has been an only child in Lake Michigan. Located 45 nautical miles east-southeast of Milwaukee, it provides vital data about wind speed, wave height, and air and water temperature. But it's up there and we're down here.

The Harrison-Dever crib provides local wind and air temperature readings. (Photo from
We get real-time data from the Harrison-Dever crib, which provides wind speed and air temperature. But its sensors are airborne, so it doesn't provide water temperature or wave height. For wave height, we rely on computer models, extrapolation and observation. (See our list of wave and weather sites to the right.)

TIDAS 900, the new kid on the block, er, lake. (Photo from
But now we have a new real-time data source: the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Michigan City Buoy. The Tidas 900 buoy is owned and operated by the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the Purdue University Department of Civil Engineering. It's the first buoy in Indiana and provides a data point further south in the lake and far closer to Chicago.

We'll be watching it tonight, when the marine forecast calls for gusts to 30 knots and waves of 8 to 12 feet. Its data won't tell us exactly what's happening on our side of the lake, but it will give us one more solid data point and, no doubt, inspire us to zip over and paddle with Keith Wikle when the conditions there exceed our own.

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