Aug 23, 2018

GLBPA few weeks ago, an acquaintance brought to my attention an interesting feature about the Great Lakes Observing System. I knew that work was being done to gather real-time data about the Great lakes, and that efforts were in place for public access to that data. What I was unaware of was just how far the project had come.

Even if you don’t boat on the Great Lakes, it’s impressive to see the technology at work. This is the future!

The Great Lakes Observation System utilizes a public access “Great Lakes Buoy Portal” that allows anyone to access near real-time data through monitoring equipment placed on buoys throughout the Great Lakes.

The equipped buoys provide users with near real-time weather, wave and water quality conditions at the location of that buoy. In total there are 68 buoys throughout the Great Lakes that are providing data, some privately funded and some publicly, although all contribute and are accessible through the Portal. Of the 68 equipped buoys 18 are located in Canadian waters. To further the observation system an Adopt-a-Buoy program has been put in place. Publicly funded buoys often have a 1-2 year operational plan that does not account for further deployment. The Adopt-a-Buoy program lets individuals or groups fund the implemented system and ensure it continues to expand across the Great Lakes.

The portal itself can be accessed online at http://glbuoys.glos.us/. However, the most notable feature is the ability to directly text equipped buoys and receive an immediate response with current data on the conditions that buoy is recording. This is a great feature for those who don’t want to run up their data plan by going through the web version, but rather can get informed on the conditions with a simple and affordable text message.

To fully utilize this service, you will need to access the webpage in advance to get the phone number and code for the buoys that coincide with your journey, but that little bit of time planning will save you a good deal of effort once you are on the water.

GLBP 2
To see just how fast the texting system operates I selected the closest buoy to my location (Georgian Bay) and sent it a text. I received a response immediately that shared the time the data was recorded (20 minutes prior to my text), as well as wind speed, gusts, air temp, water temp, wave height and intervals.

This is a fantastic tool and clearly an evolution in terms of utilizing the technology we all carry with us everyday. Hopefully with increased awareness and use the number of equipped buoys on the Canadian side of the Lakes will increase.

 



Owen HurstAbout the author:

Owen was born and raised in Midland, Ontario on the shores of Georgian Bay. He has been boating and navigating ever since and has experience as a paddling instructor, rescue boat operator, and a passenger vessel operator for Parks Canada. He is also an avid fisherman. He obtained his Master’s degree from McMaster University and holds SVOP and MedA3 certificates from Transport Canada.

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