A team of researchers from Minnesota and Wisconsin are studying dangerous currents in Lake Superior this summer and they want the public to know: "If you see bright-yellow-green water off Park Point this summer, it’s OK."

The group will release a nontoxic dye after a storm in July that turns the lake water a fluorescent yellow-green and allows researchers to trace water currents, according to a news release from the Minnesota and Wisconsin Sea Grant programs. The dye disperses within 45 minutes.

A spotter sensor that measures waves and temperature was deployed in the water last week off Park Point, while a GPS drifter tracker will go in the water in July.

“The spotter sensor is a basketball-sized, solar-powered yellow buoy that will be anchored," said Chin Wu, a lead researcher from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "The GPS drifter tracker looks rather like a red post floating upright in the water. It will be drifting with the current. We’d appreciate it if the public would allow the equipment to operate."

A spotter sensor, right, was deployed off Park Point Beach June 17, 2021. The sensor is anchored in place to measure waves and temperature. The data will help Minnesota Sea Grant researchers better understand dangerous currents in Lake Superior. (Photo courtesy of Jerry Henneck)
A spotter sensor, right, was deployed off Park Point Beach June 17, 2021. The sensor is anchored in place to measure waves and temperature. The data will help Minnesota Sea Grant researchers better understand dangerous currents in Lake Superior. (Photo courtesy of Jerry Henneck)

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Dangerous currents cause an average of 11 drownings and 23 rescues on the five Great Lakes each year, which is why researchers are working to better understand dangerous currents and improve the ability to predict when and where they form, the release said.

They also seek to develop a framework for public safety warnings and education programs. The project is focusing on Park Point, Port Wing, the Apostle Islands and Chequamegon Bay.

"Dangerous currents can be caused by winds and waves on beaches and often form around islands or piers, as well," the release said.

Signs will be placed on Park Point beach requesting people to take a survey that could be used to guide future water safety efforts.

In addition to the Sea Grant programs, funding for the research is also provided by the National Weather Service, the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Duluth, the Natural Resources Research Institute and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.