Lake Temperature Data Unavailable Due To Government Shutdown

The Partial Government Shutdown Is Affecting The Northland Directly, Especially Meteorologists

DULUTH, Minn. — With the partial Government Shutdown still underway the affects are being felt here in the Northland, even by local Meteorologists as they forecast this winter weather.

First things first says Fox 21’s Meteorologist Brittney Merlot, “As a Meteorologist an important reading we need this time of year is the water temperature. It helps us determine lake effect snow and also monitor lake ice formation.”

Regardless of the shutdown or not, every year the buoys in the waters of Lake Superior are taken out by November. This is because freezing spray can break gadgets and tools on the buoy’s or even tip them completely over. Once they are pulled out of the lake, it’s now up to the Coast Guard to measure the lake temperatures.

But with the partial Government Shutdown underway, University of Minnesota Duluth Limnology Professor Jay Austin says,  “There are no current direct measurements of lake surface temperature available right now.”

When you head to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website where you can normally monitor the lake temperature from,  it now reads…

“The website you are trying to access is not available at this time due to a lapse in appropriation.”

So there has to be somewhere else recording the science, right?

“There is an organization in Ann Arbor Michigan the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab which does a lot of the numerical modeling of the Great Lakes and they are currently shut down as well, because of the government shutdown.”

After being shut down on every account, Professor Austin makes a good point, “From a more practical stand point, ice plays a huge role in how we interact with the lake. From a commercial perspective, Lakers going in and out and having the ice broken for them but also from a cultural perspective with people going out and ice fishing or ice caves. Ice plays a very large role in how we interact with the lake in the winter.”

Proving another reason why access to the water temperatures is important for local forecasting.

Merlot explains, “When you don’t have access to the data or the model projections, our forecasting can be compromised by such a silly little thing. Here’s why, the bigger the temperature difference between air temp and water temp… equals the more or less lake effect snow accumulations we receive. It’s pretty important hyper-locally!”

And if you are wondering why we didn’t talk to the National Weather Service in Duluth about this, it’s because they aren’t allowed to be on camera during the shutdown.

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