NOAA Offers Hard, Cold Facts About Great Lakes Ice in Electronic AtlasReprinted with permission, NOAA Magazine, http://www.magazine.noaa.gov/stories/mag172.htm
June 15, 2005 - For the past 30 years, NOAA has been keeping an eye on the ice in the Great Lakes. Researchers at the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan have tracked ice cover in this region, searching for signs of climate change, and gathering data to help them better understand ice and its impacts on the Great Lakes and other regions of the world.
To share the vast amount of information about the ice, NOAA researchers published an electronic atlas of ice cover for the Great Lakes. The atlas contains data on more than 1,200 digitized Great Lakes ice charts for winters from 1973 to 2002 and offers three types of analysis of these ice charts. Data came from combined measurements from satellites, aircraft, shipboard observers and other sources. The atlas offers:
Detailed documentation and description of analysis methods, and a discussion of the resulting products, supplement this atlas as a series of reports.
The atlas contains a lot of information - 1.4 gigabytes of data, much of which is in compressed files (about 4 gigabytes when uncompressed). The online version of this atlas can be used to browse and download a limited amount of data. However, because of its large size, it is not practical to download the entire atlas from the Internet. Therefore, it is also available on CD-ROM and DVD formats. To request a copy of the atlas on CD-ROM or DVD send an e-mail to Cathy.Darnell@noaa.gov or to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please provide your name and complete mailing address.)
The atlas and dataset are archived at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, but the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory will maintain the Internet version of the atlas, for several years to come and will still continue to supply CD-ROM and DVD versions of the atlas after that.
Who will use the Great Lakes Ice Atlas?
"The atlas is a resource for those seeking information on Great Lakes ice cover climatology. It provides a benchmark of ice cover and ice cover variation on the Great Lakes during the last quarter of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st century," explained Raymond Assel, a physical scientist at the NOAA GLERL, who (along with others) spent a decade working on this project.
Assel added that the Navy/NOAA National Ice Center and the Canadian Ice Service use information from this atlas in making operational Great Lakes ice charts. Portions of these data have also already been used by other federal and state government agencies, academia and the private sector for research, educational, operational and engineering applications.
What are the Impacts of Ice Cover on the Great Lakes?
When ice forms on the Great Lakes each winter, both humans and the weather/environment around the region are impacted (i.e., more ice cover means less evaporation and therefore often less lake effort snow over the Great Lakes region). Some of the human uses that are affected include the fishing industry, coastal zones and navigation:
Climate Trends in Great Lakes Ice Cover
The Great Lakes ice atlas data indicates that a trend for below average ice conditions persisted over the entire Great Lakes from 1998 to 2002 (Figure 1). However, more data needs to be collected and analyzed before researchers will know if a lower ice cover regime has started.
Research has shown that a strong El Niño event is a precursor to above average winter temperatures and below average ice cover on the Great Lakes. This is most evident in the winter of 1997-1998, which followed an extremely strong El Niño period. Ice cover following this El Niño event was near record lows as shown on the graph.
Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Research: http://www.research.noaa.gov/
Great Lakes Products/NOAA National Geophysical Data Center: http://oas.ngdc.noaa.gov/drs/prod_d/ngdc_products.disc_prods?disc=G16
Great Lakes Online: http://glakesonline.nos.noaa.gov/
NOAA GREAT LAKES LAB ON MISSION TO LAKE ERIE DEAD ZONE: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2005/s2427.htm
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve (Alpena, Michigan): http://thunderbay.noaa.gov/welcome.html
NOAA Research in Michigan: http://www.oarhq.noaa.gov/nriys/nriys.asp?id=MI
Science with NOAA Research: Great Lakes: http://www.oar.noaa.gov/k12/html/greatlakes2.html
'NO BALLAST ON BOARD' DOESN'T MEAN 'NO ORGANISMS ON BOARD' SAYS NOAA / UNIVERSITY GREAT LAKES REPORT: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2005/s2435.htm
Media Contact: Jana Goldman, NOAA Research, (301) 713-2483
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