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Science of Weather: Underwater Gliders

Observation systems in the Great Lakes generate information about weather, water conditions, ecosystems, nutrients, and more, throughout the Great Lakes. Russ Miller is getting those instruments, buoys, and autonomous vehicles ready to go out in the Great Lakes to collect samples. This scientific piece of equipment is an Underwater Glider, which is extremely useful for monitoring water features.

Russ Miller, University of Michigan Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR),
"Typically, we will put these out and leave them for about 30 days, we fly them, we call them flying, we operate them from shore."

Gliders will measure different parameters in the water. It's similar to a water buoy that's set out in the Great Lakes, but gliders have the advantage to move throughout the water.

"It can measure lake levels, oxygen, and temperature, and chlorophyll. So it's useful for understanding how much phytoplankton how much zooplankton there is to feed the fish in the lakes and also to determine the physical properties in the lakes." Says Russ Miller.

These gliders can do a lot. It all depends on what parameter and location scientists are wanting to explore.

Russ Miller adds, "For instance, this one has an oxygen sensor in it. We ran this in Lake Erie last summer off of Cleveland where they have a large problem with hypoxia, so very low oxygen water, that can cause drinking water problems. So the laboratory has been working on modeling that, so we can forecast it, and instruments like this are collecting data to improve those models.
Collecting that data is crucial, especially when you want to improve future model data."

Underwater gliders are not only deployed in the Great Lakes, but they'll get deployed in other bodies of water.

"These get used in a lot of different environments including the oceans. So one of the big applications has been hurricane tracking. One of the things we can do with these is, they can be out in any weather, except ice. They can be out in the most extreme weather events in the lakes." Says Russ Miller.

Data like this is very beneficial and is needed for continued research to protect the environment and public health. I'm meteorologist Kylee Miller.

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