Resources for Lake Superior Wave Forecasts
Chances are most of you have heard the iconic tune "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot. This ballad brought much attention to the fateful wreckage of the Great Lakes freighter, but also brought attention to the intense power that Lake Superior has. Being the largest freshwater lake in the world, the 82,100 km^2 lake contains approximately 10% of the world's freshwater. This large of size brings a massive amount of potential energy, and on some occasions the big lake shows its strength. You can hear as such from Gordon.
This guide will give you a quick rundown of all of the resources I use to find waves on Lake Superior. I hope that you find it useful and that it inspires you to experience the beauty and power of the lake.
List of Resources
The most technical, widely used, and government-backed resource is NOAA.gov. This is my go-to for everything weather related. Whether (pun intended) it is snow, cloud cover, waves, or even the Aurora, NOAA has it all.
For wave forecasts, my favorites are zone area forecasts that show you forecasts for specific shorelines along Lake Superior. Click into a zone to get a two day forecast such as this. You can also click a location on the interactive map to the right and it will update for the location you clicked on.
I also use NOAA for wind speeds and direction. My preferred method is to search a location for weather, and click "Hourly Weather Forecast" as seen below. Use the "flag" direction and number associated with it to get wind direction and speed. Look for strong winds with the "flag" facing up and to the right (NE)
Location of Hourly Weather Forecast
Wind Speed and Direction
Another source that I check alongside NOAA is Windy.com. This site is a lot more user friendly, and the majority of user interactions revolve around the map. Use the toggle on the right hand side of the page to change between wind and waves. The darker the map, the better! Windy also has a mobile app that lets me check updates on the fly.
During the spring-autumn months, The University of Minnesota Duluth's Real-Time Buoy Data comes in handy for up-to-date tracking on lake conditions. However this is limited to the Minnesota's North Shore region (as of Feb '22), and the buoys are pulled before winter.
For all things Great Lakes related, the Great Lakes Portal has a plethora of information and an easy-to-use wave forecast table. They also have a great Buoy Observation System themselves that is scattered throughout the Great Lakes. These buoys stay in all year.
Lastly, I use the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory occasionally for wave information. This is a great source for ice coverage, and also has intuitive historical data records that is very interesting.
While this might not be an all-inclusive list of every possible source out there, there should be more than enough substance to get you researching on your own. Try one or try them all, your understanding and ease of use is really what matters in the end. I hope this was helpful and good luck!
If you liked this post, feel free to check out my other Journal posts.
Ryan is a freelance photographer and FAA part 107 commercial drone pilot based out of Duluth, Minnesota, United States. Ryan enjoys the extremes of mother nature and is constantly seeking out new experiences that will push the boundaries of his own comfort zone just a little bit more. An avid hiker, camper, and traveler, Ryan enjoys his time experiencing the elements. Catch him up the North Shore or exploring remote places on the other side of the globe.