Defining and Forecasting Dangerous Currents on Lake Superior's South Shore

2018-2020 Joint Request for Proposal Project

Image credit: M. Thoms

The goal of this project is to characterize and forecast dangerous currents - also called rip currents - on the south shore of Lake Superior (pictured above).

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Project description

Researchers and outreach professionals are collaborating to characterize and forecast dangerous currents on the south shore of Lake Superior. These currents have imperiled lives and drowned people.

The research team expects to improve dangerous current watches, warnings and advisories and to make these safety messages easily accessible to people who visit the Minnesota and Wisconsin coasts for recreation. The team is using remote sensing analysis, field measurements and cross-scale modeling to characterize dangerous currents and to better understand the mechanisms generating them.

The researchers are also developing an Integrated Nowcast-Forecast Operational System (INFOS) for dangerous currents in Lake Superior. This system, which integrates real-time water observations and a nearshore circulation model, will predict immediate (nowcast) and future (forecast) dangerous currents along the Minnesota and Wisconsin coasts. By 2020, the team expects that communities along Lake Superior’s south shore will be able to easily access and use the information on dangerous current watches, warnings and advisories generated through the collaboration.

Ultimately, the researchers hope the result of their efforts will save lives, foster coastal safety and encourage regional partnerships and resilience.


Minnesota Sea Grant provided research support through our 2018-2020 biennial competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) process. This project received an extension to June 2021 due to field work that was not completed during the summer of 2020.

Lead scientist(s)

Lian Shen, Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
(612) 625-7527

Wisconsin Co-PI:
Chin Wu, Professor
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Wisconsin - Madison
(608) 263-3078

Media Mentions


  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, Academic Institution (College and University)
  • Wisconsin Department of Administration, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, State/Local Government
  • Wisconsin Sea Grant, Sea Grant Programs