High-Tech Forecasting Tool Now Available To Lake George Visitors | WAMC

High-Tech Forecasting Tool Now Available To Lake George Visitors

Jun 18, 2020

If you’re planning a trip to Lake George this summer, new real-time weather forecasting might help your next sail or camping trip go a bit more smoothly.

Building on 30 years of scientific research on Lake George, the Jefferson Project was founded in 2013 as a partnership between IBM, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the FUND for Lake George.

As part of its efforts to map, monitor, and study the lake, the Jefferson Project has made available to the public what is described as the most accurate weather forecasting tool for the lake.

Harry Kolar is an IBM Fellow at IBM Research and Associate Director of The Jefferson Project.

“We can basically tell you one island to the next what’s going on at the lake. And I will tell you, it’s quite accurate. Because I’ve bene there watching bans of rain come in for short pulses – either at the beginning of the day or late at night – and it’s actually uncanny on how accurate it is,” said Kolar.

Called Deep Thunder, the forecasting technology uses sensors throughout the lake to gather data that is transformed into highly localized forecasts, including air temperature, wind speed, wind gusts, visibility, rain and snow rates, and accumulations.

Eric Siy is Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George.

“Bringing this degree of detail to the forecast – available nowhere else publicly – is a huge contributions to anywhere who cares about the lake, and enjoying the lake, and knowing what the weather’s going to be when they arrive,” said Siy.

Users can log onto a virtual dashboard and can find weather conditions by their current location, city or zip code, or clicking a point on a map. And Siy says that’s useful for a lake that is known for sudden changes in weather.

“Forget any given day, in an hour we can see changes. We can see the lake going from almost flat calm to having big rollers,” said Siy.

But this is just one application of the data collected at Lake George, studied for 37 years. Again, Harry Kolar.

“We have the benefit of that history, which is fantastic. The other piece of it is that data also allows us to validate some of our new models,” said Kolar.

Information from Deep Thunder, such as precipitation and snow pack data, can be used to predict how contaminants like road salt move through the lake. Science has been used to back up policy on Lake George, from reducing road salt applications in the watershed to monitoring and preventing invasive species.  

Kolar thinks that data and modeling will continue to be useful to provide a snapshot of what the lake might look like in the future.

“But the real question comes, and especially for somebody like Eric and the FUND, is, ‘Alright, but tell me about what’s going to happen in five years, and, oh, by the way, what about 50 years with climate overlays?’ And we can do that and we can now go back to the 37-year data and validate the models, which is a fantastic benefit to us: to make sure that the models are actually working property,” said Kolar.