89.1 WEMU

Issues Of The Environment: Modeling Effects Of Great Lakes Oil Spills

Apr 27, 2016

Dr. David Schwab, Research Scientist for the UM Graham Sustainability Institute Water Center, discusses his latest findings about the extensive spills that will happen if Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac ruptures and how that oil would spread through the Great Lakes.


A new model out of the Graham Sustainability Institute’s Water Center predicts that more than 15% of Lake Michigan’s open water (3,528 square miles), and nearly 60% of Lake Huron’s open water (13,611 square miles) could be affected by visible oil during a spill from Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

Line 5 primarily transmits Canadian oil and other oil products, to mostly Canadian foreign markets, and at least 25 Michigan communities and four Indian tribes have passed resolutions to stop the transport.

Dr. Schwab’s modeling, using the Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System (GLCFS) that he pioneered, now allows the National Weather Service to make accurate predictions of currents, waves, and water levels in the Great Lakes days in advance.

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— Patrick Campion is the WEMU Program Director.  You can contact Patrick at 734.487.3363, on twitter @WEMUPC, or email him at pcampion@emich.edu.