Graham Sustainability Institute

Better Communicating Great Lakes Ice Forecasts

Project Photo

Project Team

Ayumi Fujisake-Manome - Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, College of  Engineering
Maria Carmen Lemos - School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS)
Devin Gill - SEAS 
Eric Anderson - Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, NOAA

See:       Researchers to sharpen Great Lakes ice alerts  (Great Lakes Echo)

Project Summary

During cold winter months, especially as extreme weather events become more common due to climate change, shipping vessels and the U.S. Coast Guard crossing the Great Lakes need reliable ice forecasts to navigate safely. However, one of the main tools used by mariners today, NOAA’s Great Lakes Operational Forecast System (GLOFS), does not currently forecast near-term ice conditions.

Understanding users’ needs

NOAA is currently developing an ice forecast dashboard that will be included in the GLOFS. Principal investigator Dr. Ayumi Fujisaki-Manome and her colleagues recognized that too often such tools are developed in a ‘black box’ without users’ input on the decisions they make, the variables they need, and the types of communication they prefer. 

To inform the development of the new dashboard, her team solicited user feedback in an innovative way. They convened representatives from the shipping industry, USCG, and NOAA at a facilitated workshop to learn about their perspectives on ice forecasting needs and incorporate their feedback into the design process. A complementary survey ensured views from a broader number of vessel operators from the shipping community and USCG 9th District were also considered.

Designing for the future of the GLOFS

After systematically analyzing workshop transcripts and responses to the survey, the team developed a set of recommendations and findings that will inform the interface of the new monitoring tool.

Key findings from their research include that stakeholders desire near-real-time information with specific temporal frequencies. Further, the capability to home in on critical geographic areas, such as connecting waterways, and coordination with the existing ice information products are essential features for these groups. Such findings will inform the design and future development of the ice forecast guidance features in GLOFS.

This project received a $10,000 Catalyst Grant in 2019.

Resources

The Great Lakes Ice-Forecast Workshop Report (PDF) 1.5 MB, 41 pages

For more details, read the final project report (PDF)