Remote sensing-based detection and monitoring of dangerous nearshore currents

Document Type

Conference Paper/Presentation

Publication Date



Strong nearshore currents in the Great Lakes pose a threat to swimmers and contribute to several drownings and many more rescues each year. It is widely accepted that better forecasting and greater public awareness would mitigate this common coastal hazard, but the Great Lakes region lags behind the ocean coasts in these areas, and differences between ocean coastlines and the enclosed basins of the Lakes make it important to conduct research specific to this region. By analyzing a time series of high-resolution aerial and satellite images of the Michigan Great Lakes coasts, we delineated physical features of the nearshore zone that are potentially correlated with the development of rip and/or channel currents. Spatial and temporal patterns in these features were compared to the NOAA Great Lakes Current Incident Database to identify the strongest predictors of current-related incidents (drowning fatalities/rescues). The patterns revealed by these results highlight the "hot spots" for dangerous currents within the Michigan State Parks system, suggest an effect of water level change on rip current density, and contribute to improved forecasting of such currents.

Publisher's Statement

© 2015 The authors.

Publication Title

IAGLR 58th Annual Conference on Great Lakes Research