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Contact: Paul Reneau, 608-821-3901
Contact: Brenda Moraska Lafrancois, 715-682-0631
A New Job for the Ashland Harbor Breakwater Light
Mark Vinson, chief of the USGS Lake Superior Biological Station, can see the breakwater and lighthouse from his office window. The site has long struck him as an ideal location for monitoring weather conditions as well as long-term water quality trends. “Its central location in the western part of the bay makes it a good spot for evaluating incoming waters from Fish Creek and other small tributaries along with water that the bay exchanges with Lake Superior. Plus, it’s so visible to the public,” he says. Vinson, cooperators Brenda Moraska Lafrancois and David VanderMeulen from the National Park Service (NPS), and other local partners hope this new information will shed light on how water circulates in the bay, how lake temperatures and nearshore conditions change over time, and offer new public interest tools as well.
Weather data and time lapse photos from late 2016 and early 2017 show how quickly wave and ice conditions can change in the Bay. The station’s sensors picked up significant lake level changes during a big nor'easter in November 2016, due the wind- and pressure-driven sloshing effect known as seiche, and photos during the past week’s thaw show ice melting along the breakwater. Says David Cooper, cultural resource specialist at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, “For just over a century, the Ashland Harbor Light has played an important public safety role, guiding navigation and boat traffic into the bay. This effort is a great extension of the light’s legacy.”
The historic Ashland Harbor Breakwater Light was added to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore by an Act of Congress in 2014. The NPS and the USGS have worked to make sure that the weather monitoring equipment is installed in a way that protects the historic fabric and appearance of the lighthouse.
The data and time lapse images are publicly available and served up in real-time at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv/?site_no=463741090521301. For Bay enthusiasts and the Lake Superior management community alike, the Ashland Harbor Breakwater Light continues to be a welcome sight in the Bay.
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