Spring 2022 eNewsletter

Observing Ice, Wave, and Current Interactions in Lake Erie

The Great Lakes comprise about 20% of the world’s surface freshwater, have amazingly complex geometry and topography and, due to their size, produce sea-like hydrodynamics. In turn, waves interacting with the formation and melting of ice on the Great Lakes directly modify these hydrodynamic processes. Open water waves generated by wind can penetrate into the lake’s ice-covered region, impacting currents, water levels, and thermal structures. Understanding the ice-wave-current interactions is necessary to provide accurate predictions and guidance for navigation, engineering, hazard warning, and regulatory actions over the Great Lakes.

Lake Erie MODIS satellite image taken February 21, 2011. Photo Credit: NOAA CoastWatch.

Dmitry Beletsky (CIGLR) and Jia Wang (NOAA GLERL) alongside collaborators Nathan Hawley (NOAA GLERL), Steve Constant (NOAA GLERL), Steve Ruberg (NOAA GLERL), and Ayumi Fujisaki-Manome (CIGLR) are working to collect new, comprehensive data on wave parameters, ice thickness, and water currents in Lake Erie, which has the highest ice coverage among all five of the Great Lakes.

“Because suitable observations are essentially lacking, we know rather little about how waves and ice interact with each other in the Great Lakes,” said Beletsky.

The team is expanding upon the 2020-2021 observational winter campaign, when only two instruments were deployed in western Lake Erie due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The shallow water ice profiler (SWIP) and acoustic wave and current profiler (AWAC) provided a unique opportunity to observe the dynamic ice processes in Lake Erie’s coastal area, especially during the early stages of ice formation.

“In September 2021, six moorings were deployed in Lake Erie with instrument retrieval planned for spring 2022,” said Beletsky. “The six moorings include four SWIPs and two AWACs. The SWIP measures real-time ice thickness in shallow water environments with an upward-looking sonar device that is mounted on the lake floor. The AWAC measures wave height, wave direction, wave period, full current profile and ice thickness, as well.”

“Currently, data analysis and mooring retrieval is ongoing, with the plans of a long-term Lake Erie observational study in the works,” said Beletsky. “While this novel dataset will provide important information about ice-wave-current interactions and processes in Lake Erie, it will also be used for validation and calibration of a state-of-the-art coupled wave-ice-lake model for the Great Lakes developed at NOAA GLERL. Future plans are being discussed and may include another large-scale campaign during the 2022-2023 winter or deploying AWAC and SWIP instruments in a small lake, with a less dynamic ice environment than occurs in the Great Lakes, for inter-calibration. Our aim is to ultimately transition the model results to improve predictions made by the Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System (GLCFS).”

Related Articles:

    • Bai, P.; J. Wang; P. Chu; N. Hawley; A. Fujisaki-Manome; J. Kessler; B.M. Lofgren; D. Beletsky; E.J. Anderson and Y. Li. 2020. Modeling the ice-attenuated waves in the Great Lakes. Ocean Dynamics.70:991-1003. (DOI:1007/s10236-020-01379-z). 
    • Hawley, N., D. Beletsky and J. Wang. 2018. Ice thickness measurements in Lake Erie during the winter of 2010-2011. Journal of Great Lakes Research. 44(3):388-397. (DOI:1016/j.jglr.2018.04.004).