Officials to Commission Great Lakes’ First High-Frequency Radar


The Safety in the Straits commissioning event takes place Aug. 12 at Bridge View Park in St. Ignace, Michigan, from 1 to 2 p.m., with time afterward for a demonstration and photos.

Hosted by Michigan Technological University and the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) — the regional node of NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System program — Safety in the Straits will bring together elected officials, state agencies, community members, businesses and researchers to commission a high-frequency radar (HFR) system installed in the Straits of Mackinac.

Home to the Mackinac Bridge, the Straits of Mackinac share space with other transportation and energy infrastructure, heavy recreational boat traffic and busy commercial shipping lanes, all in one of the most unpredictable waterways of the Great Lakes.

“We chose the Straits for its strategic importance,” said oceanographer Lorelle Meadows, a research associate professor in cognitive and learning sciences at Michigan Tech and founding dean of the Pavlis Honors College. “It’s imperative for us to have the best technology available for environmental monitoring, search and rescue, shipping and other important applications that rely on a more complete understanding of the currents in this complicated area.” 

Researchers, mariners and natural resource managers have long needed a better way to understand the water currents in real time — to assist with navigation, research, search and rescue, and real-time intelligence in the event of a pipeline spill.

“After seeing high-frequency radar applied in ocean communities, we knew it would be useful to monitor many of the Great Lakes’ critical waterways,” said Kelli Paige, CEO of GLOS. “The need for quality, real-time current data in the Straits was clear.”

To help put actionable, high-value water data into people’s hands, Michigan Tech — with funding from GLOS and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) — undertook the HFR’s multiyear installation. 

Now, in 2022, the installation of the CODAR Ocean Sensors system is complete. As the ice melted this spring, data began to flow to the public through Upper Great Lakes Observing System web apps, realizing a vision of making the Straits safer for generations to come. Live data will also be available in the near future on the GLOS Seagull platform.

“The high-frequency radar that Michigan Tech deployed in the Straits of Mackinac is a great example of the power of collaboration,” said Tim Havens, director of Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center. “Together with GLOS, EGLE and CODAR, the GLRC was able to install the very first current-monitoring radar on fresh water, showing that we can accurately track the movement of the water in the Straits. This capability can, for example, provide emergency responders vital real-time information for search and recovery efforts.”

The event will be livestreamed.