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 NMU Gains Ownership of Weather Station

The Granite Island Light Station is once again being put to productive use by NMU. It is located about 10 miles offshore on Lake Superior and owned by Scott Holman, an alumnus and former NMU Board of Trustees chair who is a proponent of technology. NMU has used the island to relay its WiMAX signal to Big Bay, delivering high-speed Internet to remote Powell Township School. Now Holman has donated funds to purchase sophisticated weather equipment previously installed on the island by a University of Nebraska researcher and transfer ownership to NMU’s Earth, Environmental and Geographical Sciences department.

“About five years ago, the University of Nebraska professor was looking for a unique place to put the equipment and approached me about using the island,” said Holman. “I said, ‘If I let you do this, you have to involve an NMU student in the research.’ Then earlier this year, I suggested NMU should take the lead on this and actually assume ownership of the equipment. The WiMAX and weather station fit together because you need Internet to transmit data back to the mainland.

“Twenty-three family members have graduated from NMU, going back to 1926. Between that and my service on the alumni board and as a trustee, I feel a sense of proprietorship in a way. That’s what makes me want to stay involved with Northern and help when I see an opportunity.”

NMU is collaborating with the National Weather Service and other universities to monitor weather conditions and lake evaporation, measure carbon in the atmosphere, improve marine forecasts and better understand rip currents. Susy Ziegler and Norma Froelich (Earth, Environmental and Geographical Sciences) had a recent opportunity to visit Granite Island. Froelich is shown next to the monitoring equipment.

“The weather station provides real-time access to conditions, which are available to the public as well at www.graniteisland.com,” said Ziegler in a report to the NMU Board of Trustees’ academic affairs committee last Thursday. “What makes this gift especially meaningful is that the idea came from Scott Holman. He is completely committed to the university and knows the value of having high-tech equipment to provide that level of detail that we really need to answer big questions. The research is in the early stages, but I see a lot of potential to assess long-term climate patterns and observe how the environment is changing.”

Ziegler said Granite Island is one of four sites in a network of upper Great Lakes monitoring stations. The other weather stations are at Stannard Rock, also on Lake Superior, Spectacle Reef on Lake Huron and White Shoal on Lake Michigan.