Author Topic: Wave height changes in a quick time on lake Erie (August 28, 2005)  (Read 22387 times)

Anonymous

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I've been out on lake erie when it was glass calm. Literally 5-15min. later we were in a storm with 5 footers breaking all around us. The problem is about every 20th wave was bigger then that by far. I was about 4 miles off Avon in a small aluminum boat.

These "pop up" summer storms are very treatcherous.

Anyone else experience this phenomena on Lake erie in boats?

The storm came at us out of the northwest so it had a lot of fetch to build. Winds conservatively at 30-40 mph.

Put the boat on the trailer, bilge pump still running from the 5 footer we took over the transom. Sun came out and wind stopped.


Went home white as a ghost.


Im lucky to be here.

Offline Kelly Riesen

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I think that anyone that has spent any amount of time on or around Lake Erie understands the experience you had. Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes are true inland SEAS. Storms and high wind events can quickly turn a nice day on the lake into a life-threatening experience.

Lake Erie sometimes experiences the most drastic changes in wave height. There are several reasons why this is true.

Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes. Because of this, not only will waves kick up faster, but they also have a shorter wave period. Wave period is the distance between the crest of one wave and the crest of the next. In Lake Superior or the ocean, the waves may get very large, but they are often spaced far apart. In this respect, it would be more like riding a roller coaster. In Lake Erie, your stern may be on the crest of one wave, while the next one is washing over your bow.

In storms and wind events, there are also rogue waves. This happens when two waves cross each other and add up to form a bigger wave. This is probably what you were experiencing when you mentioned that every so often, there would be a much larger wave.

Lake Erie is a wonderful place to swim, boat, and fish, but deserves due respect. Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes can be dangerous and unpredictable. Storms move very quickly and it's easy to get caught up in whatever you're doing (fishing, swimming) and not be paying attention to the sky.

The best advice to boaters is to have a NOAA weather radio with them at all times. Check the local weather forcast BEFORE heading out onto the lake. Pay attention to and learn to read the sky. If you see an approaching front, get out of there! Remember, your boat will not outrun a storm.

For more information on marine weather and weather radios, go to the NOAA National Weather website:

http://weather.gov/om/marine/home.htm

Happy boating!

Kelly Riesen, Fisheries Extension Coordinator
Ohio Sea Grant
riesen.4@osu.edu

ezmarc

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This thread brings up a sore point for me. Why in the world can't we get a more accurate weather forecast for Lake Erie out of our meteorologists?

I don't know how many times I have listened to forecasts calling for small craft advisories or gale force winds and nothing happens. The opposite also happens when calm seas are called for and you wind up trying to get home from Pelee or some other faraway place in 5 footers or more.

These poor forecasts cause people to either not even try to come to the lake which hurts marinas, tackle shops, restaurants, etc or in other cases puts people in danger of at the least a very miserable ride home in rough seas. I've talked to most bait store owners on the north coast and one of the biggest complaints is what these "Boaters should stay off the water" forecasts cost them in sales, while they are listening to the marine radios about what a nice day it is.

What gives? I thought several years ago that a system was supposed to put in place that would increase the accuracy of these lake forecasts. What happened to that?

Offline Kelly Riesen

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Ezmarc,

Everyone gets frustrated by weather forecasts. Unfortunately, meteorology is not an exact science and probably never will be. There are so many different variables that affect the weather and it's impossible to be able to predict all of them. Much of the forecasting that we see is based on trends over time. I'm sure that the people working for the National Weather Service would love to give 100% accurate reports every time. For the time being, it's just not possible.

You mentioned a system that was supposed to be put in place to increase the accuracy of these forecasts. I'm not sure what system you are referring to. I spoke with Fred Snyder and he mentioned that a few years back, there was a short-lived program where charter captains were supposed to call in wave/weather reports from on the water. Apparently, after a few weeks, no one was calling in reports, so the system died.

Having a marine radio and glancing at a weather forecast before going out on the lake are still good habits to get into. The forecast may not be correct all the time, but if caution and good common sense are used, the worst that might happen is a bumpy ride home.

Kelly Riesen, Fisheries Extension Coordinator
Ohio Sea Grant

Offline John Hageman

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It seems to be the worst on weekends, when an accurate forecast and update is needed the most. Many times, the same forecast plays all weekend that is way off and is obvious that nobody is paying attention until it's updated Monday morning. During the week it's usually better-not right on, but in the ball park at least. The winds are over-estimated more often than under-estimated (except weekends, when they are off for both the direction and speed).

Offline Fred Snyder, Ohio Sea Grant Extension

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And, as Kelly points out, the atmosphere has too many variable factors affecting it to make forecasts precise and error-free. For example, on any day when the air temperature reaches 80 degrees before noon, a thunderstorm can form in just five hours from a clear, calm sky. So what's the the forecast for that day? it may form... it may not. The sky is clear... should I stay home?

EdoNaVas

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OK. Forecasts are not accurate, we'll accept that. But how about current conditions? Out of Erieau, ON in Lake Erie yesterday bouncing around 3-4 footers with a smattering of white caps. The "buoy 17 miles North of Vermillion" reports the Cleveland national weather channel, insists on 1 foot. Our location so close to the buoy yet there is no congruence. In the past I have compared the previous day's report/output to what was experienced and it isn't even close. Ever. And the buoy is always less than the bumps and bruises that appear all over after a ‘calm and quiet’ day on Lake Erie. What am I missing?

Offline Dave Kelch, Sea Grant Extension Specialist

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EdoNaVas:

I agree with you, as I was also on the lake yesterday between Vermilion and Lorain. The AM weather/wave report was on target, but as you indicated, that was not the case in the afternoon. We were also experiencing 2-3 footers, with the occasional 4, and whitecaps. We kept fishing, yet was not what was forecast. I count that up to the terms of 'predicting' or 'forecasting' the weather conditions; mother nature does not always do what the NWS/NOAA predicts she will do--and often times, much to our dismay.

With respect to the buoy 17 miles north of Vermilion----I also agree with your observations and concerns. Not wanting to make an excuse for NWS/NOAA, but possibly their equipment needs an overhaul or replacing? There seems to be a problem with data from that specific buoy, as this is not the first time their data site recordings do not agree with those boaters on the water and experiencing conditions first hand.

I suggest that you, and all others who experience frequent 'significant' differences in both forecasts AND lake buoy data contact the NWS/NOAA directly at the following website/phone/address:

nwscle@noaa.gov

National Weather Service Forecast Office
Cleveland, Ohio
Federal Facilities Building
Cleveland Hopkins Airport
Cleveland, OH 44135
Phone: 216-265-2370

Unless they know the system is not functioning properly, how can they be expected to provide accurate (well, to the best of their ability) data
for Lake Erie users to plan activities around?

When you make contact with NWS, always have the date, time, and location of your observations recorded. Also, be willing to provide your name and contact information so as to lend creditability to your observation.

NWS/NOAA use to have a volunteer weather informatiion program, called MAREPS (short for Marine Reporting System) where designated, trustworthy charter and commercial vessel captains would report now time conditions to NWS in Cleveland, which would then be immediately updated on NOAA weather channel 16. This program started out well, and continued for a couple of years. However, volunteer MAREP reports decreased to the point where the program was unable to continue. Although the initial intention of the volunteer reporters was good, it became a daily "job", without pay and any real recognition or incentives. When asked to develop a meaningful incentive program for MAREP volunteers, the request unfortunately was either not heard by the right administrators, or was not taken seriously.


Hope this provides some satisfation to your concerns.

Dave Kelch, Ohio Sea Grant Program

FreeByrdSteve

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I've found that the wind forecasts on the Intellicast website to be pretty good - or at least more reliable than some of the other sources. I typically look at multiple sources before a trip.

http://www.intellicast.com/Local/USLocalStd.asp?loc=usohct14978&seg=LocalWeather&prodgrp=Forecasts&product=WINDcast&prodnav=d1_00

Not sure how this link will come through, but if you go to the main intellicast site, you put in a city (or zipcode) in the upper right hand window. It will give an overall forecast for a few days. Then on the upper left click on "Forecasts" and then "Wind." You can advance the wind forecast up to 72 hours I believe.

In my experience the Vermilion Bouy is a pretty good reference point for what is happening - I believe the measurements are based on how waves are "officially" measured, which is from a "flat" lake to the wave crest. On Erie most people are used to "measuring" or talking about waves from the crest to trough - basically twice the "official" measurement that the bouy is likely showing for the measurements. Having said that - in my experience in general if you multiply the wave heights reported at the Vermilion bouy by 1.5 that is usually pretty close to what most of us "perceive" the waves to actually be on the lake.

Just my experience and observations...
Steve Carlson

Offline Dave Kelch, Sea Grant Extension Specialist

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FREEBYRD:

Thanks for the additional info Steve!! Was not aware of this measurement calculation used by NWS/NOAA at the buoy locations---hope this info helps those who have questioned the buoy data in the past---like Me!! LOL Seriously, in all of my past dealings and conversations with NOAA/NWS personnel in Cleveland (regarding the previous MAREP Program and other weather reporting/forcasting concerns), this fact was never brought up.
Thanks again!!!
Dave Kelch