National Ice Center Gears Up for Winter Ice Rescues
Great Lakes Ice Chart
[click photo to enlarge]
With fall and winter's colder temperatures approaching, the U.S. Coast Guard's Ninth District will soon be using satellite data from the National Ice Center (NIC) to aid in rescue missions involving anyone missing or in potentially life-threatening situations on the ice in the Great Lakes area.
Using radar statistics, high resolution images, maps and observations from NOAA, NASA and Canadian Space Agency satellites, NIC provides the Ninth District with ice cover forecasts that include information on ice thickness and concentration for the often frosty Great Lakes region. NIC sends the Coast Guard unit updates two to four times each week during the Great Lakes Ice Season, which runs from December to May.
NIC, located in the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, MD, is a U.S. Government agency that brings together experts from NOAA, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard to support coastal and marine sea ice operations and research.
During the 2010–2011 ice season the unit saved 12 lives and responded to 80 total cases of possible persons in distress on ice, such as an incident in which they rescued a snowmobiler stranded on the frozen Saginaw River. The unit also assisted 81 people in "lesser-risk" ice incidents. Rescues typically involve retrieving people in trouble with Coast Guard helicopters and vessels.
"The National Ice Center's timely and accurate products enhance our abilities to carry out our 11 mission areas across an eight-state region, covering 1,500 miles of international border and over 6,700 miles of shoreline," said Jerome Popiel, the Ninth Coast Guard District's Assistant Chief of Incident Management."
The Ninth District, headquartered in Cleveland, covers the eight Great Lakes states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Coast Guard primarily uses ice cover forecasts for rescue missions, such as plane crashes, missing ice fisherman and snowmobilers and other incidents of missing persons.
The Ninth District also uses ice cover forecasts to provide warnings for fisherman and manage its schedule of commissioning and decommissioning its 1,200 buoys during the year. The unit removes its regular buoys in November and replaces them with winter markers that do not use antennas or other appendages that might be torn off by ice. The winter buoys are replaced with the regular buoys sometime between March and May.
Other Coast Guard operations that benefit from the NIC data are ice breaking to assist in movement of commerce and for flood relief, which includes breaking up ice jams in rivers.