Integrated Physical and Ecological Modeling and Forecasting


High waves in Lake Michigan along the Chicago shoreline.
GLERL’s Integrated Physical and Ecological Modeling and Forecasting (IPEMF) branch conducts innovative research and development of numerical models to predict the physical, chemical, biological, and ecological response of the Great Lakes due to weather, climate,and human-induced changes.

Green Bay, Lake Michigan: GLERL is leading the way in developing an experimental approach to lake to land coupling to provide accurate total water prediction capability. We are linking two models across the coastal interface: information flows from land to lake (e.g. runoff and streamflow) and from lake to land (e.g. storm surge, coastal flooding).

Short-Term Coastal Dynamics Modeling

Coastal dynamics research is focused on addressing water quality problems and physical threats to public safety (storms, oil spills, waves, rip currents) on a localized and lake-wide basis. The length of time for these problems ranges from hours to days. Our research includes the development and use of hydrologic (water cycle), hydrodynamic (circulation of water), and ice models in the prediction of runoff, nutrient or bacteria loads, currents, water temperature, storm surge, waves, and ice cover. As a result, these predictions enable us to forecast events, such as beach closures, hazardous material spill paths, and movement of harmful algal blooms, among others.

MODIS image of maximum ice cover on Great Lakes, 92.5%

Seasonal Atmosphere-Lake-Ice-Ecosystem Modeling

Modeling of the atmosphere, lakes, seasonal changes in ice cover, and the ecosystem dynamics of the lakes adds to our understanding of how the Great Lakes basin changes over the course of months and years. Results from our work on these models address problems involving water resource management, human health and ecology. Our main challenges involve improving seasonal forecasts of Great Lakes water levels and ice cover and linking physical conditions (air and water temperature, wind, ice cover) to ecological responses.

Regional Climate Projections: Impact Assessment and Historical Trends Analysis

Our research on regional climate projections is based on atmospheric and coupled hydrodynamics-ice-ecosystem models. Results are used to predict the physical and ecological conditions of the Great Lakes over the course of yearly seasonal changes to decades. Our research tools are designed to examine the effects of climate on regional air temperature, precipitation, water levels, lake temperature and thermal structure, ice cover, and ecological changes and trends.

Great Lakes Ice Cover

Understanding Great Lakes ice cover is crucial because it impacts a range of societal benefits provided by the lakes, from hydropower generation to commercial shipping to the fishing industry. The amount of ice cover varies from year to year, as well as how long it remains on the lakes. GLERL scientists are observing long-term changes in ice cover as a result of global warming. Studying, monitoring, and predicting ice coverage on the Great Lakes plays an important role in determining climate patterns, lake water levels, water movement patterns, water temperature structure, and spring plankton blooms.

Next-Generation Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System (GLCFS)

The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory's Next Generation Great Lakes Community Forecasting System (GLCFS) is an experimental set of hydrodynamic computer models that predict lake circulation and other physical processes (e.g.thermal structure, waves, ice dynamics) of the lakes and connecting channels in a real-time nowcast and forecast mode. These research models provide timely information on currents, water temperatures, short-term water level fluctuations (e.g. seiche, storm surge), ice, and waves out to 120 hours into the future.

Credit: Esri, USGS, NOAA

Experimental Lake Champlain Nowcast / Forecast System

Lake Champlain has experienced several flood events over the past decade, causing destruction of property and infrastructure in the binational basin. To better prepare for flood events, NOAA GLERL and the University of Michigan Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR) developed a real-time flood forecast modeling system for the Lake Champlain-Richelieu River basin. This Experimental Lake Champlain Nowcast / Forecast System will inform future operational flood forecasts for the Lake Champlain-Richelieu River (LCRR) system and support inundation mapping as well as recreational forecasts and search and rescue efforts. This project is funded by the International Joint Commission's Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Study.