Building an Operational Lake Erie Harmful Algal Blooms Early Warning System

A harmful algal bloom in Lake Erie

In Lake Erie, harmful algal blooms (HABs) typically begin as nutrient-rich water from the Maumee River drains into the warm, shallow western part of the lake. This warm, nutrient-rich water is perfect for the growth of a type of blue-green algae that creates a toxin called microcystin. In 2014, such a bloom caused the microcystin levels in Toledo tap water to exceed what is recommended by the World Health Organization, triggering a two-day “Do Not Drink” advisory.

Thanks to a grant through the federal Ocean Technology Transition project, GLOS is partnering with NOAALimnoTechOhio Sea Grant, and Cleveland Water Alliance to build an early warning system (EWS) that will help to address what is increasingly becoming a regional health and safety concern.

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Satellite imagery captured on Aug. 1, 2014 shows the harmful algal bloom that caused a two-day shutdown of Toledo’s municipal water supply. NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.

High Frequency Radar to be installed in Straits of Mackinac

Those seeking to monitor currents in the Straits of Mackinac will soon have high quality data at their fingertips thanks to one of GLOS’ latest projects. By securing an NOAA grant, GLOS is funding the purchase of a high frequency radar system that will give detailed information on water currents through the narrow straits.

Dr. Lorelle MeadowsGuy Meadows(Left to right) Primary investigator Dr. Lorelle Meadows and Dr. Guy Meadows, both researchers at Michigan Technological University, are spearheading the project’s implementation including the installation of the radar units.

The implementation of the plan is being carried out by two researchers at Michigan Technological University, Lorelle and Guy Meadows. The technology has long been in use along U.S. coasts and was thought to be only viable in ocean settings. Lorelle, however, first demonstrated its effectiveness in Lake Michigan in 1999-2001 with a specially built system and again in 2011 at Point Betsie with a commercial CODAR SeaSonde system at distances of 10-15 miles, which, Guy noted, is a perfect distance for many Great Lakes applications. This new monitoring system will lend itself to a plethora of applications from tracing any potential surface contaminant threat to monitoring ships and ice flows in the straits. 

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Huron-Erie Corridor safer with new spill modeling tool

Huron-Erie CorridorHuron Erie Corridor Spill Model ToolAn industrial and shipping hotspot, home to refineries, factories, and commercial shipping lanes, the Huron-Erie Corridor represents a region especially vulnerable to damage from chemical spills. It is crucial for local water managers to know when such spills threaten areas where water intakes are located. 

Building on models developed by Dr. David Schwab, of Michigan Technological Research Institute (MTRI), GLOS partnered with MTRI to create an interactive resource that shows how a toxin can spread throughout the waterway.

As part of ongoing work by GLOS/NOAA Great Lakes Research Lab to simulate spill scenarios, in 2018 this project expanded spill modeling to include downstream Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, developing geospatial model results and creating a user-friendly interface as part of the GLOS Data portal.

Such a resource is one more tool that water managers can turn to when they are faced with making real-time decisions that affect the health of nearby ecosystems and human communities.

Photos: NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. | The spill modeling tool, available to water managers, shows most likely areas to which a toxin may float in Lake St. Clair.

Enabling Ontario’s Conservation Authorities (CAs) to Make Data Discoverable and Accessible

Two people working at a computerPartners: Conservation Ontario, North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority, Quinte Conservation Authority, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, Grand River Conservation Authority Conservation

Authorities collect, store and analyze environmental data employing a variety of observational and remote sensing systems such as ground and surface water monitoring networks, climate stations, and GIS systems. To date, most of these data have been collected and used internally – shared only with project partners in an on-demand fashion and typically not accessed by U.S. entities. This project enables CAs to make these data discoverable, accessible and available by assisting with their inventory, assessment and preparation. Specific outcomes are an assessment of existing and potential data end-users and data products, making data available through GLOS, and development of tools to assist end-users in utilizing newly available data.

Contact: Rick Wilson, Information  Management Coordinator,

Past Projects

Great Lakes Beaches: Expanding GLOS Data Services for Sustainable Decision-Support in Water Quality

Partners: University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute(WISGI), United States Geological Survey Water Resources Mission Area

WISGI aims to improve the accuracy and cost-effectiveness of water quality monitoring and extend the use of “nowcast” models for beaches throughout the region. With GLOS data, related services and tools, WIS GI is developing a suite of enhancements  to its water quality nowcast models, including the Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System and the Environmental Data Discovery and Transformation (EnDDaT) web data portal that links data services to the Virtual Beach decision-support software. Public health officials, staff, and researchers responsible for monitoring, advisory decisions, and/or risk communications at public beaches along the Great Lakes coasts can use these tools to complement the water quality samples at public beaches.

The goal is the adoption of IOOS-based nowcasts at 50 or more beaches throughout the Great Lakes by 2017.  To achieve this goal, WISGI will do the following:

  1. Visit coastal communities that are interested in using these tools
  2. Conduct a training workshop
  3. Support the Virtual Beach users group
  4. Develop training videos and learning  modules on the development and operations of IOOS-based nowcasts
  5. Partner with CIDA to enhance the EnDDAT web data portal

Contact: David Hart, Assistant Director of Extension, Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute,

Expanding the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS)

Partners: Great Lakes Fisheries Commission (GLFC), Michigan State University, USGS

The current Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System web (GLATOSweb) data system, developed by GLOS in partnership with the GLFC, was designed to promote discovery of individual telemetry research projects to extend their effective range, but it does not provide direct access to data or include mechanisms for quality assurance. This project updates the back-end database design to support more efficient data management and access via GLATOSweb. It ensures compliance with IOOS requirements to establish GLATOS as a fully-integrated augmented transition network node of the national Animal Telemetry Network.


Contact: Jessica Ives, Great Lakes Fishery Commission,

Great Lakes Evaporation Network (GLEN)

Partners: LimnoTech, University of Colorado-Boulder, Environment Canada, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab (GLERL), University of Minnesota-Duluth, Northern Michigan University, University of Michigan, Michigan Technological University

Five offshore measurement locations compose the GLEN. This network operates simultaneously year-round, even through bitter winters, helping us understand the evaporation process that takes place over the Great Lakes.

This project enhances the existing GLEN infrastructure and (together with significantly leveraged support from NOAA and Environment Canada) and provide a foundation for new partners to contribute observing assets, modeling tools, and outreach. Specific goals are to : 1) maintain and expand the suite of GLEN observations (e.g,  observation sites, buoys, and glider deployments); 2) establish a coordinated data management and communications system through GLOS; and 3) develop new models and tools to synthesize and communicate GLEN data and improve Great Lakes forecasting.

Contact: John  Lenters, Consultant,

Validating and Expanding the Great Lakes Adaptation Data Suite (GLADS)

Great Lakes Adaptation Suite Map

In past years, GLOS funded work at Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA) program in developing a consistent Great Lakes Climate Adaptation Suite (GLADS) that would serve as a tool for understanding our changing climate. This work is being expanded as GLISA works to incorporate GLADS into their widely-used climatologies, or summaries of observational data and will also include incorporating future climate projections into their models.

GLOS hosts and maintains this data for public access. The end-goal is twofold: 1) develop more accurate Great Lakes climate data based on real-time Great Lakes observation data, and 2) make that data more accessible to city managers and decision makers.

GLISA is a NOAA-supported program at the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute, the University of Michigan Climate Center, GLERL, and the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Framework.

Contact: Omar Gates, University of Michigan Climate Center,

Photo courtesy GLISA

Hydrodynamic model for the St. Louis River Estuary and Duluth-Superior Harbor system

Partners: University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD)

UMD will further develop an existing hydrodynamic model of the St. Louis River Estuary/ Duluth-Superior Harbor. The model simulates the impact of meteorology on the St. Louis River Estuary system, producing physically realistic and ground-truthed estimates of currents and thermal structure in the system. Enhancements to the model will include the addition of ecosystem and water quality, improvement of the nowcasting capability, and an enhanced web presence for model output. A coordinated water quality and ecosystem monitoring program with project partners (e.g., the extensive network of academic, state, federal, tribal, commercial, and non-profit groups who all have a stake in the Harbor-Estuary system) will help to ground truth the model.


Contact: Jay Austin, University of Minnesota, Duluth,

Nearshore Observations Network

Partners: University of Minnesota-Duluth, Michigan Technological University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, State University of New York, NOAA GLERL, Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research

The network, in operation since 2008, is comprised of five academic institutional partners along with NOAA-GLERL that work together to operate key observing system and modeling improvements vital to the Great Lakes. This network of observing assets includes an array of integrated nearshore observing buoys that provide continuous, real-time observations on wind, wave, temperature, and currents along with expanded water quality analysis. Mobile observing platforms, including a glider and autonomous underwater vehicles, provide detailed, three-dimensional observations of thermal structure, and ecological processes throughout each of the Great Lakes. Observations include surveys focused on understanding harmful algal blooms, impacts of invasive species, and coastal nutrient inputs. Observational activities are tailored to local user-driven needs and the needs of broader  Great Lakes region.

Academic Contacts

University of Minnesota-Duluth


Contact: Jay Austin,

Michigan Technological University


Contact: Guy Meadows,

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


Contact: Val Klump, and Harvey Bootsma,

State University of New York


Contact: Greg Boyer,

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory


Contact: Steve Ruberg,

Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research


Contact: Tom Johengen,