Mechanical Energy

Buoy measurements

Measurements from buoys on the Great Lakes maintained by NOAA National Data Buoy Center and Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada were summarized at several temporal scales for wind speed, direction, wave height mean and maximum, dominate wave period, average wave period, mean wave direction, air temperature, and water temperature for each buoys period of record.

download buoy locations & summaries


Fetch is the unobstructed distance that wind can travel over a lake surface in an essentially constant direction. It is an important characteristic of open water bodies as a longer fetch can result in larger wind-generated waves. Utilizing buoy wind data and accounting for changes over time GLAHF has calculated the effective fetch for the open water and an index of coastal wind exposure called the Relative Exposure Index for the Great Lakes from ice-off season wind data. Fetch and Relative Exposure Index summaries are available annually and as a composite of averaged values from 2006 to 2014.

download fetch composite

download relative exposure index composite

link to annual fetch and relative exposure index

 Offshore circulation

Offshore circulation hydrodynamic models have been develop at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) as part of the Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System (GLCFS). The GLAHF database provides summarizes of mean circulation magnitude and direction for the years 2006-2012.

download depth-averaged mean monthly offshore circulation

download depth-averaged mean spring offshore circulation

download depth-averaged mean summer offshore circulation

download depth-averaged mean annual offshore circulation

 Upwelling index

Upwelling is the occurrence of cooler bottom water rising to the surface as warm water is pushed offshore during high winds.  This is an important phenomena in the coastal areas of the Great Lakes, which introduces cooler, nutrient rich water to the surface.  Using methods established by Plattner, et al. (2006) we have developed an annual index of the number of days upwelling has occurred each year at a fine spatial scale across the Great Lakes for the years 1995-2013.

download annual upwelling index

Wave action

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACEs) Wave Information Studies have developed wave action models for the nearshore areas of the Great Lakes.  We have summarized the hourly model output into annual, monthly, spring, and summer averages for wind speed, wave height, and wave period and have calculated the maximum and coefficient of variation for wave height for the years 1979-2012.

download wave model locations & summaries

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    Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Framework is a comprehensive spatial framework, database, and classification for Great Lakes ecological data.
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