About a dozen research institutions operate buoys in the lakes. Many of them provide data to the nonprofit Great Lakes Observing System, which makes it available online.
It’s website offers real-time data from the buoys, which are returned to the water as soon as harbors and boat launches are ice-free.
It can help boaters and anglers avoid potentially dangerous conditions, while scientists get material that feeds computer models predicting weather and other lake characteristics.
Ed Verhamme of the Ann Arbor-based engineering firm LimnoTech says spring can be a particularly hazardous season, as conditions are often rough and change quickly.