Improving the Usability of Great Lakes Ice Forecasts through Knowledge Co-production

Funded by: NOAA Climate Program Office 

Final workshop report now available here. 

Project Summary

In the Great Lakes, ice cover is integral to human activities in coastal communities and the region overall – from obstructing vessel navigation in the transportation sector to providing an opportunity for winter recreation. Rapid formation of lake ice poses significant challenges in commercial shipping and ice breaking operations. Timely, accurate, and usable ice information (i.e., current conditions and forecasting) has great potential to reduce safety risks for mariners and their vessels, among other stakeholders. A one-year Catalyst grant from the University of Michigan Graham Sustainability Institute funded the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR), the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), and GLISA to improve the usability of NOAA’s Great Lakes Operational Forecast System (GLOFS) by engaging with stakeholders in a workshop hosted in partnership with U.S. Coast Guard and Lake Carriers Association (LCA) in July 2019. Pre-workshop surveys were also conducted with the 9th District U.S. Coast Guard and the Lake Carriers Association. The workshop allowed scientists and decision-makers to jointly identify barriers, opportunities, and recommendations to improve GLOFS usability. In October 2019, this project was scaled up to conduct further in-depth stakeholder engagements with the goal of developing formal recommendations to NOAA on future updates to the models, and the eventual development of a front-end user interface. In this project, GLISA, CIGLR, and GLERL are conducting in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with a broad range of user groups including the US and Canadian Coast Guards, US Army Corps of Engineers, and representatives of the shipping industry.

Sustained Assessment of Lake Levels

Project Accomplishments

GLISA’s Contribution

GLISA’s role includes supporting the design and implementation of workshops, interviews and focus group discussions, and assisting in the development of recommendations for NOAA.

Project Partners

Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR); Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL)

GLISA Contact

Kim Channell, Climatologist:


“Thank you for the work you are doing to improve the weather and ice forecasting on the GL. You are very organized, the meetings are engaging, and it is fun to be a participant. There are countless people within my organization that rely on ice information for safe voyage planning, to support critical business operations, and to ensure an uninterrupted flow of raw materials across the GL.…I set-up an internal meeting with our operations team and our captains to share with them the exciting progress you’ve made. I hope you are able to continue your work for a long time and look forward to working together in the future. The ice forecasting tool is fantastic and it is exciting to be part of the work you are doing.”

Workshop participant, a representative of a company in the U.S. shipping industry