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Computer Model Predicts Lake Superior’s Unique Moves

Beach sunset

Trying to predict how Lake Superior will react to a storm or other events has, up until now, been like trying to predict where a tornado will twist next. Sea Grant researcher Philip Cheung, an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has developed the first hydrodynamic computer model that can be used to predict Lake Superior’s unique moves.

“Other hydrodynamic models have difficulty accommodating the steep slopes of Lake Superior’s shoreline,” said Cheung. “This new model can handle the lake’s demanding bathymetry and complex current flow, seiches, and upwellings.”

When combined with a food web model, Cheung’s 3-D hydrodynamic model will be useful to environmental scientists in simulating how, on a large scale, the lake ecosystem reacts to the impacts of chemical toxins, and nutrient loading from populated shorelines, as well as to natural events such as the seasonal variation of various fish populations.

Cheung demonstrated the results at a Minnesota Sea Grant Advisory Committee meeting by showing how a storm from the Spring of 1976 affected the lake’s currents and temperatures for a 24-hour period.

Although the input parameters and model construct make it unique for Lake Superior, it can also be used for the other Great Lakes if some parameters are changed. The model runs on a personal computer with DOS and Windows 3.1 software.

For more information about the model, contact Philip Cheung at 612.625.1852.

By Marie Zhuikov
March 1998

Return to March 1998 Seiche

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