U.S. National Geophysical Data Center / MGG Division
Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

Great Lakes Data Rescue

Images above are new Bathymetry of Lake Michigan. For higher resolution images, try the online sample of the Bathymetry of Lake Michigan CD-ROM below.
Maps can be generated at almost any scale from the digital database. Bathymetry is available from NGDC in several forms.

Bathymetry of Lake Michigan CD-ROM & Poster
Online Sample of CD-ROM with Downloadable Images

Principal Investigator/Program Manager: Troy L. Holcombe, NOAA/NGDC
Co-investigator: David F. Reid, NOAA/GLERL

SUMMARY-- NOAA is actively engaged in a program to Rescue Great Lakes seismic reflection, bathymetric, and sediment-sample data and place them in established marine geological and geophysical data repositories at the NOAA National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC). This program is managed by NGDC and it relies on the cooperation of NOAA/Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, NOAA/National Ocean Service, the Canadian Hydrographic Service, and other activities (U.S.Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, academic research centers, and state geological surveys). A share of the program's resources are devoted to external projects.

To the extent possible, NOAA will rescue the entire array of Great Lakes geological and geophysical data and make them readily available to the scientific and other communities concerned with pollution, coastal erosion, response to climate changes, threats to lake ecosystems, and health of the fishing industry. Much data have been collected but are at great risk on deteriorating media or are in non-digital formats. Phases of the proposed effort will vary but will generally proceed through the following steps with much overlap: (1) identification of data at risk, (2) data rescue, (3) assimilation into existing NGDC data bases, and (4) cooperative development of science-added projects and products. Links will be established and maintained with the Great Lakes science community.

RATIONALE-- We are rescuing the bulk of Great Lakes geological and geophysical data for the benefit of the scientific and management communities concerned with pollution, coastal erosion, response to climate changes, threats to lake ecosystems, and health of the fishing industry. The Great Lakes region is one of the most intensely studied and managed natural ecosystems in the world; however, without a systematic data rescue effort, scientific research and decision making affecting the lives and economic well-being of some 80 million people in Great Lakes states and Ontario will continue to be made with access to only a fraction of the lake floor geological and geophysical information which already exists but is not readily available. A few examples of how complete and ready access to geological and geophysical data will have a positive impact on lake studies and decision making are provided below:

Changing Lake Levels -- Geological and geophysical data are necessary to evaluate and quantitatively assess the effects of changing lake levels on shore erosion, drainage of shore areas, navigation, fish habitat, local climate, ecology, and water supplies. Since the Great Lakes are in many respects a regionally interdependent natural system, ability to understand and predict effects of changing lake level are enhanced by being able to access and fully utilize the entire geological/geophysical data base.

Toxic Effluents -- Water circulation models which predict the transport path and fate of toxic effluents require detailed lake bottom configuration (bathymetry) as an essential input. Uptake of chemical effluents in bottom sediments is highly dependent on energy of bottom currents and bottom sediment types. Presently the best existing data is not available in pixel grid form for modeling. Access to seismic reflection data and sediment samples allow identification of where sediments are being deposited today, and where they are not. Since many substances are likely to be deposited along with sediments, this information is critical in determining which areas are most susceptible to accumulation of high levels of toxic materials.

Lake History -- High-resolution seismic reflection data and sediment core data contain the record of lake history since the last glaciation and how the Lakes have responded to changes in climate and to isostatic rebound. The best possible understanding of how lake levels and lake ecosystems respond to climate changes is based on understanding of how the lakes have responded to such changes in the last 12,000 years.

Support of Research -- Research managers have expressed concern about not having ready access to data because of the inordinate burden on staff time and resources, not to mention delays, associated with locating, acquiring, and organizing these data. This scenario, particularly acute for lake-floor data, imposes a significant drain on U.S. research dollars and research person-power and in fact makes it impossible to begin some projects. Conversely, the implications of having a larger number of academicians and research laboratory people available to address a pressing problem, because data are available to them at reasonable cost, should not be overlooked.

Fishing Industry -- Good detailed bathymetric charts, and maps of bottom sediment types, are very useful indicators of fish habitat and these items are very much in demand by sport and commercial fishing interests. However, the best possible bathymetric and sediment charts are not available, indeed have not even been compiled, for most areas of the Great Lakes, primarily because the majority of the data are neither readily accessible, nor consolidated in one location.

MPEG movie of Great Lakes elevation data from Duluth to Chicago.

(8 MBYTE ANIMATED GIF VERSION)


For more information on the Great Lakes data rescue program, please contact:

Other Great Lakes Resources on the Internet: Great Lakes Information Network (GLIN)


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