Same Day in Rossport as Around the World
What do an oil drum, a water gun, and nurdles all have in common? They were all found at last year’s International Coastal Clean-up! Join Parks Canada and local volunteers at Wardrope Park in Rossport, ON from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM on September 15th to help clean up the shores of our Great Lake. Be a part of the international event that is happening all across the world! Please wear sturdy shoes and your own work gloves. Lunch will be provided.
We’re Ordering Your (Free) Lunch – So Please RSVP!
Quick, Easy, Fast
Are you looking for Lake Superior weather conditions at a specific location? Text a buoy. That’s right, text a buoy! You will immediately be texted back with information like:
- wind speed
- water temperature
- air temperature
- barometric pressure
- wave height
- and more…
At time of writing, Infosuperior texted the buoy off the Slate Islands south of Terrace Bay, Ontario. The reply came back immediately with the following conditions:
Wind: 11.7 kts @ NE
Gust: 13.6 kts
Air Temp: 56.5F/13.61C
Waves: 3.0 ft/0.91 m
(Note: 1 knot is equal to 1.852 km/hr or 1.15 mi/hr)
To text any of the following Lake Superior buoys simply
- Enter the phone number 734-418-7299.
- Enter the identification number associated with a specific buoy into your text.
- Press send.
- You’ll receive a text in seconds providing conditions at the specified buoy.
The list of Lake Superior Buoys and their corresponding identification numbers:
|Isle Royale East||45180|
The buoys can be accessed on NOAA’s Great Lakes Observing System website, or portal. The buoys are owned by a mix of organizations including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (MOAA), Michigan Technical University in Houghton, University of Minnesota-Duluth, Northern Michigan University in Marquette, and the Coastal Data Information Program.
There is no need to stumble through a jumble of U.S. and Canadian websites to access Lake Superior weather. You can access all the major sites, including NOAA and Environment and Climate Change Canada Lake Superior weather at:
What is a Meteotsunami?
The Great Lakes are huge bodies of water capable of generating substantial wave activity—people even surf on Lake Superior! But were you aware that tsunamis are among the types of wave events that occur in the Great Lakes? The term tsunami usually refers to waves caused by displaced water when the underlying earth shifts or slides.
Although the Great Lakes region is relatively geologically inactive, the lakes are not exempt from a different kind of tsunami: Meteotsunamis are caused by meteorological events and result in a wave that has a very similar physical nature to a seismic tsunami wave, but on a much smaller scale. Fast moving storms resulting in sudden changes in barometric pressure over the lakes can cause displacement of significant amounts of water creating a large wave that can travel long distances and affect large areas of coastline.
Update: model output is here! Check out this GIF of not one, but TWO meteotsunamis that came across the lake on Friday the 13th. Red = higher water level, blue = lower. pic.twitter.com/zjTZXRquNA
— NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (@NOAA_GLERL) May 11, 2018
Predicting and Preparing
Like traditional seismic tsunamis, meteotsunamis result in rapid changes in water levels at coastlines that can take people by surprise, sometimes causing structural damage and even sweeping people out into stormy waters with intense currents. For this reason, Great Lakes researchers are working on developing a system that will allow them to predict when meteotsunamis could occur and where they might hit.
Scientists now know what type of storm events are capable of generating meteotsunamis but existing sensors are not capable of collecting real-time data quickly enough to detect all rapid air pressure changes—changes that may only last a few minutes. The Cooperative Institution for Great Lakes Research is providing funding to set up 29 real-time high frequency sensors around Lakes Erie and Michigan for a pilot project in predicting meteotsunamis on the Great Lakes. To learn more about this project check out this article by Jim Erickson on the University of Michigan News website.
The article by Jim Erickson points out that seiches are a different phenomenon than meteotsunamis, associating seiches with both air pressure differential and, more significantly, wind. Oftentimes, meteotsunamis are mistaken for the more well-known seiche. In June and early July, rapidly rising water in the Thunder Bay and Rossport area, when local weather was relatively calm, ripped out and scattered docks, which begs the question: could that have been a meteotsunami?
InfoSuperior has been following plastic pollution issues in Lake Superior closely and a recent New York Times article about plastic has caught our eye. The article details work being done by Dr. Feinberg and Jeffrey Moore at the University of Illinois, Marc Hillmyer at the University of Minnesota, and Elizabeth Gillies at Western University in London Ontario, on a potential replacement for overly durable single-use plastics that too often end up in our lakes, rivers and oceans.
Plastic is normally created out of highly durable long-lasting polymers that do not break down. Biodegradable plastics are one form of degradable plastic that have been embraced by the general public; however, these plastics require a biologically active environment with a large number of microbes in order to actually degrade, and biodegradable plastics rarely end up in such healthy soils.
The plastics that these chemists are currently researching and developing are built to self-destruct. Instead of using long-lasting stable polymers, these plastics are created from unstable polymers that easily “unzip” into there molecular components which can then be recycled into new polymers. The polymer chains are held together by end-caps or interconnected in closed networks that can be designed to release at the introduction of a certain trigger: temperature, light, air composition, etc.
Currently cost-effectiveness is the greatest barrier facing the use of self-destructible plastics, they just can not compete with the very low cost of traditional plastics. These new unzippable polymer plastics do have interesting potential for medicine, electronics and foam. To learn more check out the New York Times Article “Designing the Death of Plastic“!
Algae Blooms Relatively New to Lake Superior
Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, usually doesn’t bloom in the cold nutrient-poor waters of Lake Superior. Optimal water temperatures required for algae blooms are in the range of 25C (77F) and Lake Superior’s average surface water temperature is usually closer to 15C (59F).
The first recorded algae bloom in the Lake occurred in July 2012 when record breaking lake temperatures were reached. Researchers believed that higher than average water temperatures, combined with flooding that added nutrient-rich sediment to the lake, was what led to the 2012 bloom. The same factors were involved in a 2016 bloom.
Continued Heating and Major Storms in 2018
The most recent algae bloom on Lake Superior was observed in mid-August, 2018, and it seems to indicate that water temperature and flooding are indeed major factors. This summer has seen record breaking temperatures and prolonged heat waves, which has translated to warmer lake temperatures. Major flooding dumped significant amounts of sediment into Lake Superior along the same stretch of coastline where the algae bloom was reported—from Superior Wisconsin to the Apostle Islands.
Scientists do not fully understand the relationship between these factors and Lake Superior algae blooms, but they are looking into it. Blue-green algae has the potential to be toxic to humans, pets and wildlife. Samples were collected and have been sent for testing but the algae has now dissipated and no reports have been made to indicate that the bloom had any major effects on water safety in the region.
August 29th, 2018 Article in New York Times – “Algae Bloom in Lake Superior Raises Worries on Climate change and Tourism”
November 29th, 2016 Infosuperior Article – “It Could Never Happen Here“
The Public Advisory Committee (PAC) to the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan (RAP) will hold its next meeting at 7 p.m. on September 12th in Room 3004 of the ATAC Building at Lakehead University. Evening parking at Lakehead University is free of charge and available right beside the ATAC building.
- Present recommended “Beneficial Use Impairment Delisting Criteria” for Wildlife Populations and Wildlife Habitat, as developed by the Wildlife Sub-Committee
- Present “Potential Wildlife Habitat Projects” using the online habitat mapping tool
- Provide an update on North Harbour
Remedial Action Plans work to address environmental, chemical, physical, and biological degradation resulting in pollution and adverse impacts to natural habitats in Areas of Concern on the Great Lakes. They are supported by Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and Lakehead University.
The meeting is open to the public and all are welcome to attend. There is no charge. Observers do not participate in committee decisions but may be allowed to address the meeting at the discretion of the chair.
Information to Join the Meeting Online:
Join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
Access Code: 244-834-493
First GoToMeeting? Do a quick system check:
Attendees can listen to the meeting and see presentations. Questions can be posed using the “chat” feature and will be addressed at the discretion of the chair.
Isle Royale, the Slates, Michipicoten, the Apostles…All in One Trip
Ever paddled out to Isle Royale? That’s 14 mi./22 km. Double in return.
How about paddling around Isle Royale? Call that at least 105 mi./170 km.
How about paddling out to the Slate Islands on the Canadian side near Terrace Bay? That’s about 10 km./6 mi. one way.
What about Michipicoten Island near Wawa, Ontario? Paddling there from the mainland is about 18 km./11 mi. Throw in at least 100 km./62 mi. if you circle the island.
The Apostles Islands near Bayfield, Wisconsin? Anyone paddle through that group of islands?
How about paddling to, through, and around, all of the above locations – ON ONE TRIP. Now let’s add in a complete circumnavigation of Lake Superior, on the same trip.
By any measure, this is some remarkable paddling and exactly what three Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore kayaking guides did this summer. Experienced Lake Superior travelers might be thinking these escapades to remote, open water, Lake Superior locations, are cavalier. Not so. The kayakers in question knew exactly what they were in for, took all possible safety precautions, including early morning starts, and treated the lake with the utmost respect. And let’s face it, there is absolutely no way that anyone could complete the above crossings in a kayak, without that respect…with even more, very humbling respect, at the end of the process.
Cooperation with Northern Michigan University, Superior Watershed Partnership
Infosuperior felt privileged to meet the three paddlers when they dropped by Infosuperior’s office at Lakehead University on July 19th. They also picked up bottles shipped from the Superior Watershed Partnership in Marquette, Michigan to sample Lake Superior for microplastics.
The paddling group is comprised of Northern Michigan University students Karol Rajski of Lake Zurich, Illinois, studying Wildlife and Fisheries Management; Jared Vanoordt of Grand Haven, Michigan studying Environmental Science with a specialization in Water Resources and Ryan Busch of Holland, Michigan studying Digital Cinema. Drew Etling, also of Lake Zurich and studying Environmental Studies and Sustainability did not visit Lakehead University and is joining the group a couple of days south of Thunder Bay.
The paddlers started out in Marquette, paddling east to Sault Ste. Marie and then west along the Canadian shore to Thunder Bay. When they spoke with Infosuperior on July 19th, they had paddled approximately 1000 km./621 mi. The group plans to continue south from Thunder Bay, then paddle out to Isle Royale and around the island. After paddling back to the Minnesota mainland they will head south to complete Minnesota’s entire Lake Superior shoreline, then east, across the Wisconsin shore, through the Apostle Islands and back to Marquette, Michigan.
Developing a Greater Understanding of Lake Superior
Infosuperior fosters interest, knowledge and respect for Lake Superior, building broader public support for restoration and protection. The paddlers’ goals are very closely aligned with those of Infosuperior and include:
- raising awareness about the importance of clean water
- developing greater understanding of Lake Superior
- demonstrating passion and love for Lake Superior
- identifying people who share passion for Lake Superior and want to make a difference.
As can be seen by their paddling, the group is also very action oriented and is:
- collecting scientific data for the Superior Watershed Partnership and Alliance for the Great Lakes
- sharing stories about Lake Superior
- promoting Great Lakes conservation
- documenting their Lake Superior travels through photography, film and online posts
- sharing their story at film festivals around the Great Lakes.
“We Started Seeing These Plastic Pieces All Over the Beaches”
Infosuperior will endeavour to get back in touch with the paddlers for results of their microplastics sampling. Meanwhile, the paddlers had some interesting anecdotes and information to pass on.
“Four the Lake” is taking water samples at a complete cross-section of Lake Superior locations from the Marquette area through to Whitefish Bay: the Terrace Bay area, Isle Royale, the Apostles and Thunder Bay, to name a few. The group, in cooperation with Northern Michigan University and the Superior Watershed Partnership, is sampling for “microplastics,” tiny plastic particles, often microscopic, that have found their way into Lake Superior. Once the group was barely underway however, something really turned their heads – “nurdles.” Instead of the almost microscopic pieces of plastic they expected to find in samples, they were finding pieces of plastic many times larger, at beach after beach, as they paddled Superior’s southern shore.
As one of the paddlers remarked at the outset of conversation with Infosuperior, “We started seeing these small pieces of plastic all over the beaches east of Marquette.” Initially, group members didn’t know what they were, only that they were “very visible bits of hard plastic, perhaps an eighth of an inch across, or a few millimeters.” These observations reinforced what Marquette area resident Dan Wiitala had reported to Infosuperior earlier. There is no international boundary when it comes to nurdles. They are found on both the Canadian and U.S. sides of Lake Superior.
The odd thing is, that although these pieces of plastic are classified as a “microplastics” under both U.S. and Canadian legislation, and although they are the very visible end of the mircoplastics spectrum, they are not getting the “press” that other microplastics are receiving. As a matter of fact, many Infosuperior readers have gotten in touch to say they have seen these plastic pieces on Lake Superior beaches, while at the same time, the plethora of information about “microplastics” that they have encountered makes no mention of nurdles. Some people, especially those who have property adjacent to beaches where very large quantities of these plastic bits are found, have told Infosuperior they almost feel insulted. They’ve said that it almost feels disrespectful, both to the lake and to themselves, that this problem is not getting more attention and action, by the general public and even government and non-government agencies concerned with the Lake Superior environment.
So what are they? “Nurdles” are the raw material for all things plastic. Their extremely wide distribution in eastern Lake Superior could mean they come from a January, 2008 Canadian Pacific Railways (CPR) train wreck which took place just west of Rossport. A couple of the cars on this train were carrying nurdles, which ended up in Lake Superior. There is no way to definitively prove that this wreck is the source of all nurdles in Lake Superior.
CPR has carried out extensive cleanups at beaches in the Rossport area, on several occasions, spending well in excess of a million dollars. They also say they will support further cleanup efforts. Parks Canada, the organization which manages the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, stretching from the tip of the Sleeping Giant near Thunder Bay, east to Terrace Bay, has also carried out beach cleanup events for which area residents have volunteered their time. Substantive dialogue with CPR continues and while there is no, “putting the genie back in the bottle” as far as cleanup of nurdles goes, there is hope for improvement and also for better understanding. All manner of measures are in place to prevent chemical and other spills to Lake Superior, but they can still happen. Increased understanding of the nurdles situation may help during future events, with nurdles or other substances.
A Number of Important Points Have Arisen About Nurdles
As it stands now, a number of important points have arisen about the nurdles:
- a standard method for quantification is required. (One person may say a few nurdles on a given beach is “lots,” whereas another person may say the same amount is “hardly any.”)
- better understanding of the geographic distribution of nurdles is required, both in the immediate area of the train wreck, around Rossport and also across Lake Superior. Once a common method for quantification is in hand, a cross-section of Rossport area sites could be surveyed to quantify distribution. A similar survey could be done lake-wide. The Four the Water paddlers did not set out to study the nurdles situation but have provided the first documented account of widespread nurdles distribution throughout eastern Lake Superior.
- Estimation to determine just how many nurdles went into Lake Superior in the 2008 train wreck, along with quantities removed from the lake in subsequent cleanups, might be useful in estimating just how many remain in circulation.
- More effective equipment needs to be developed and utilized for nurdles cleanup, taking into account the need to minimize “collatoral damage” (damage to beach ecosystems).
- Nurdles clearly demonstrate the nature of Lake Superior. It is a living, moving thing, taking with it all manner of living and non-living things. These things swirl about in the lake for indeterminate time periods and in ways which are not at all fully understood.
For Lake Superior area residents, especially those who visit the many superb eastern Lake Superior beaches where nurdles are found, efforts to deal with microplastics, without considering nurdles, can feel superficial at best.
“It is inspiring to realize the amount of respect people have for this beautiful body of fresh water.”
Four the Water made a special point of saying that they would like to thank all of the people they have met on their Lake Superior travels and who were so kind to them. Jared points out that, “the biggest highlight of our trip was the people who are a community around Lake Superior. It is inspiring to realize the amount of respect people have for this beautiful body of fresh water.”
Infosuperior would like to thank Four the Water as well, for stopping in at Lakehead University to tell their story and for making this story available to the broader Lake Superior community through Infosuperior. Infosuperior is grateful that Karol, Jared, Ryan and Drew are clearly documenting the presence of nurdles across eastern Lake Superior and raising the profile of this facet of the microplastics spectrum. Their extensive travels on Superior clearly demonstrate that nurdles are an integral component of the Lake Superior microplastics equation, in both Canada and USA.
One last thing – congrats to Four the Water for what is probably some of the most outstanding Lake Superior paddling ever completed. Only 1000 km./621 mi. to go.
Lake Superior is 11 cm./4 in. above the 1918 to 2017 average, but 14 cm./5.5 in. below the level at this time last year, as seasonal water level rise continues. The U.S. National Weather Service says that Lake Superior rose about 5 in./13 cm. from June 13th through July 13th. Usually the lake would rise about 3 inches during this time period. This equates to about 2.75 trillion gallons of water.
Lake Michigan-Huron is currently 45 cm./18 in. above average, 4 cm/1.5 in. above last year’s beginning-of-July level, and the highest since 1997. Seasonal water level rise is expected to continue on Lake Michigan also.
The above-average levels coupled with strong winds and waves continue to result in shoreline erosion and coastal damages across the upper Great Lakes system. Additional shoreline erosion and coastal damages may occur this summer, should active weather continue.
Lakes Huron and Michigan Two Feet Above Average
In a July 19th public conference call, several callers criticized the Lake Superior Board of Control for releasing too much water to Lake Michigan and the lower lakes. Last year, more water was released from Lake Superior than at any time during the last 32 years. Shoreline damage is a driver for criticism as Lakes Michigan and Huron are approximately 2 ft./61 cm. above their historical average. They are also half an inch or 1.27 cm. higher than this time last year. The situation is like dumping more water from Superior into an already full bathtub.
Over the next several months, The Lake Superior Board of Control expects to adjust the gate settings at the Sault Ste. Marie control structure or “Compensating Works” and release flows greater than those prescribed under recent regulations. Under authority granted to it by the IJC, the Board set the Lake Superior outflow to 2,800 cubic metres per second (m3/s) for the month of July. This is actually 390 m3/s more than current regulations prescribe. This special measure is necessitated by reduced flows due to maintenance at the two hydro-electric generating stations on either side of the St. Marys River. Flow through these hydro-electric stations is critical in managing Superior’s water levels.
Primary Driver is Hyrdologic Conditions, Not Control Structures
The gate setting at the Compensating Works was increased on 9 July 2018, from the current setting of approximately two gates fully open to a setting of three gates fully open. The Lake Superior Board of Control stresses that hydrologic conditions are the primary driver of water level fluctuations. Water levels of the Great Lakes cannot be fully controlled through regulation of outflows, nor can regulation completely eliminate the risk of extreme water levels during periods of severe weather and water supply conditions. It is not possible to accurately predict such conditions weeks in advance, but given the current levels of the lakes and the possibility that wet conditions may continue, the Board advises all those that may be impacted to prepare for the possibility of high water levels, should they occur this summer and fall.
Related November 23rd, 2017 Infosuperior Post: “Interactive Tour – Lake Superior Outflows”
Parks Canada has initiated the work to create a Marine Access Development Plan for the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area. This important planning document, along with the Visitor Experience Strategy, Interim Management Plan and other guiding documents developed in collaboration with partners and stakeholders in recent years, will help inform Parks Canada’s capital investment strategy for the national marine conservation area over the next 15-20 years.
The contract to complete this work was awarded to CIMA Consulting through a competitive bidding process. From July 23rd to August 3rd, 2018, CIMA Consulting representatives will be conducting a visit to the region to assess 26 sites, listed below, that have been identified by Parks Canada and its partners and stakeholders as areas of interest to consider in the Marine Access Development Plan. The CIMA Consulting team consists of representatives from the following companies: CSW Landscape Architects, Coldwater Consulting and Tulloch Engineering.
Following the initial assessment, stakeholder engagement sessions will be held in August and early fall. These sessions will help CIMA Consulting and Parks Canada understand the relevance of these places to local businesses and communities, including Indigenous partners, so that they may further assess their potential as access points for visitor experience opportunities and Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area’s operational requirements.
If you have questions about the Marine Access Development Plan contact Cory.Gaudet@pc.gc.ca, 807-346-2909 or Stephen.Dicks@pc.gc.ca 807-887-5468
Related: Job Position Currently Being Advertised by Parks Canada for Work in the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area – Resource Management Officer Two
Sites Identified For Initial Assessment in the Marine Development Access Plan Include:
Squaw Bay (on Black Bay)
Grann Drive Boat Launch
Dorion Bible Camp
Red Rock Marina
Steel River Access
Gravel Bay Access
Pays Plat First Nation
Wardrope Park Rossport
Rossport Parkette (MTO)
Rainbow Falls/Rossport Provincial Park
East Rossport (Lakeshore Drive)
Mountain Bay Launch
Cypress Bay Area
Terrace Bay Beach and Boat Launch
Pumphouse Beach Terrace Bay.
Indigenous peoples are water protectors whose traditional knowledge is vital to sustainable water use and management. The Government of Canada hopes to facilitate Indigenous participation in community level efforts to restore and protect Great Lakes water quality through funding for Indigenous-led projects. Indigenous communities, organizations, associations and governments located in the Great Lakes were asked to submit proposals for projects that promote water protection through action, science, networks and/or awareness. The deadline for application was March 30, 2018 and four recipients have now been announced. Most projects have received the maximum available funding of $100,000 to be distributed over two to four years.
Henvey Inlet First Nation received $100,000 over 2 years for their Anishinabek Coastal Wetland Monitoring project, which will see community participants collect data about fish and plant populations along with water chemistry and nutrient concentrations in 40 wetlands. The Chippewas of Newash Unceded First Nation will be able to implement their Neyaashiinigmiing Water Protection Plan for the Lake Huron and Georgian Bay waters around the First Nation’s traditional territory using $100,000 over 4 years. Pays Plat First Nation Great Lakes Protection will be developing a database for Lake Superior’s nearshore waters, shorelines and wetlands in the First Nation’s traditional territory to help identify and prepare for local environmental change over time using $99, 803 over 2 years. Finally, Island Breeze Tree Service will be putting $100,000 over 3 years towards the Walpole Island First Nation Great Lakes Protection Initiative to control and reduce the invasive species Phragmites. They will use data collected by the community to create awareness about the need to protect native wildlife and plants in Walpole First Nations wetlands.