Many uses for high-frequency radar in the Great Lakes: warning ships, tracking spills, monitoring algal blooms

A high-frequency radar tower, which is a 14-foot tall thin metal tower with a spherical compartment near the top that contains the radar equipment, is mounted on the beach with a view of the Mackinac Bridge near Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinac City, Michigan. Image Caption: High-frequency radar towers, like the pilot tower shown here near Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinac City, Michigan create maps an entire area rather than providing only a single point of data.

Lorelle Meadows is available to discuss high-frequency radar capabilities in freshwater applications and the importance of remote sensing in the Great Lakes.

Lorelle Meadows is the dean of the Pavlis Honors College at Michigan Technological University and an oceanographer by training, recently conducted in the Straits of Mackinac the first test of a high-frequency radar system specifically tuned for use in the Great Lakes.

High-frequency radar has not been implemented as a routine tool for measuring currents in the Great Lakes because, in comparison with salt water, the electromagnetic pulses travel shorter distances. However, high-frequency radar is effective in freshwater at shorter distances — six to eight kilometers — and there are numerous locations in the Great Lakes where coastlines narrow, providing the necessary geometry to make high-frequency radar effective.

There are many potential applications of high-frequency radar: providing warnings to ships of currents that might force them aground or off course, giving vital information to search and rescue operations, tracking a hazard spilled into the water, or monitoring harmful algal blooms so that municipal water intakes can be shut off if necessary.

Contact Info: Lorelle Meadows,, 906-487-4371

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