Rip Currents in the Great Lakes
                           
Characterization, Forecast, and Warning   
  
Rip currents are shore-normal, rapid seaward flows that originate in the surf zone. As a hidden but lethal hazard at Great Lakes beaches, rip currents can quickly sweep swimmers away from the shore out to the open, deep water. It has been estimated by the Great Lakes Current Incident Database that every summer an average 12 fatalities and 26 rescues are related to rip currents during from 2002 to 2012. Rip currents sometimes are incorrectly referred as “undertows” or “rip tides”; however, those are three different phenomena. Undertow is the backwash of breaking waves and in general a weak flow. On the other hand, rip tides are strong offshore currents caused by the constricted tidal flow through barrier beaches. In comparison, rip currents are strong, non-periodical, discretely located, and more dangerous than the other two types of offshore currents. Rip currents are in general caused by spatial difference in wave breaking along the shoreline; however, the mechanism for generation of rip current can be complicated and varies on a beach-to-beach basis. To improve beach hazard rip-current warning, we will  develop an Integrated Nowcast (real-time) Observation and Forecast (future) Operation System (INFOS) and applying the INFOS at three rip-current prone beaches through coordination, communication, and community outreach and education. The three beaches, (i) Park Point Beach, Duluth, MN, (ii) Mckinley and Bradford Beach, Milwaukee, WI, and (iii) North Beach, Port Washington, WI, are identified as high occurrence of bar-gap, headland, and structured-induced rip currents, respectively. The proposed project is an integrated and collaborative effort among partners: UW-Madison, Minnesota/Wisconsin Sea Grants, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, National Weather Service at Duluth and Milwaukee/Sullivan, City of Duluth, Milwaukee County, and City of Port Washington,  NOAA-NOS and Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. Several news related to the INFOS-rip current project can be accessed here.   INFOS-RC