NOAA97r511

 Contact:  Dane Konop (NOAA)      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
           Cheryl Dybas (NSF)     10/02/97

SCIENTISTS BEGIN FIVE-YEAR STUDY OF LAKE MICHIGAN MUD PLUME

A team of scientists from six federal agencies and a dozen universities and research institutes has begun deploying instruments in a five-year study of a massive plume of muddy water, 12 miles wide and 200 miles long, that appears each year along the southern end of Lake Michigan from Milwaukee, Wisc., to Grand Haven, Mich., announced the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Although lasting only about one month each year, the plume is suspected to have a profound impact on the ecology of Lake Michigan and may be the major mechanism for re-suspending and transporting both nutrients and contaminants in the lake.

Clearly visible in NOAA satellite imagery, the plume is believed to consist of over a million tons of very fine clay particles and sediments eroded from the western shore of Lake Michigan in late winter and early spring. Scientists think the eroded bluff material is first deposited temporarily along the coastline, then re-suspended in the water column during winter storms.

"The 45 scientists involved in the Episodic Events - Great Lakes Experiment, or EEGLE for short, expect to develop the most sophisticated research models ever created for the Great Lakes, models that should provide a more realistic assessment of how nutrients and contaminants in the sediments continue to recycle within the lake and control its ecosystem," said Brian Eadie, NOAA scientist and the project's coordinator.

The $13.75-million study is sponsored primarily by NOAA and the National Science Foundation.

To start the study, scientists aboard the NOAA research vessel Shenehon, based at the NOAA Lake Michigan Research Station in Muskegon, Mich., have begun deploying equipment that will sample and measure sediments in waters at strategic locations one to 12 miles off Muskegon and St. Joseph, Mich., and Milwaukee.

Eventually, the team will deploy nearly two dozen strings of instruments to measure water velocities and temperatures in a 1,500-square-mile area of the southern end of the lake. These measurements will be complemented by satellite-tracked instruments on drifting buoys to measure both large-scale circulation in the lake and track the plume.

Whenever NOAA forecasts a large storm that may trigger the plume, U.S. Coast Guard helicopters will strategically seed the lake with drifting instrument packages.

The University of Michigan's research vessel Laurentian and the Environmental Protection Agency's research vessel Lake Guardian will also participate.

For the first time in the Great Lakes, two coastal over-the-horizon radars will also be used to study surface currents.

Participants include scientists from the University of Michigan and the NOAA-University of Michigan Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research; the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Michigan Technological University; Ohio State University, the University of Texas; Rutgers University; the University of Georgia; the University of Southern Mississippi; Texas A&M University, the Academy of Natural Sciences (a non-profit research institute in Philadelphia, Pa.); the U.S. Department of Energy-University of Chicago's Argonne National Laboratory; the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research Service; the U.S. Geological Survey; the U.S. Coast Guard; the Environmental Protection Agency; and NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

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Additional information about the experiment can be found on the Internet at: http:www.glerl.noaa.gov/eegle/eegle.html

Satellite images of the plume can be found at:
/news/plume.gif.

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EEGLE Homepage
Greg Lang, EEGLE Web Manager, gregory.lang@noaa.gov
This page last updated on 24 Oct 2002