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Lake Michigan Surf Forecast
Our surfing forecast for Lake Michigan is updated every Monday and Thursday morning by resident meteorologist, Dr. Fresh (see his bio below). New to Great Lakes wave forecasting? Dive in deep with our resources below.
LAKE MICHIGAN SURF FORECAST
Updated by Dr. Fresh on Thursday, January 16 2019
5-day Lake Michigan wave forecast model
SURF QUALITY KEY (for daily summary below, not map above)
BLUE – Flat or Poor Surf
PURPLE – Mediocre Surf
ORANGE – Fun Surf
GREEN - Epic Surf
RED - Victory at Sea
Lake Michigan Surf Forecast for Thursday to Sunday:
Summary: Another solid round of surf on the way as a storm system moves directly across the Great Lakes. Wisconsin will see big waves on Saturday from strong southeast winds. There will be a rapid switch to offshore winds with frontal passage resulting in a major offshore cleanup. Things will likely get VERY, VERY good for the Wisconsin lakeshore. Strong NW flow continues into Sunday.
THURSDAY: NW wind 15 to 25 knots, gusts to 30 knots. Waves 5 to 7 feet, mainly for the east side of the lake.
FRIDAY: SE wind strengthening 10 to 20 knots with gusts to 25 knots. Waves 3 to 5 feet, mainly for the Wisconsin lakeshore.
SATURDAY: SE 20 to 30 knots early then switching hard to the W 20 to 30 knots with gale force gusts. Clean conditions develop for the west side of the lake as winds switch hard offshore. Wisconsin will be on FIRE. Waves 5 to 7 feet for the west side of the lake and fading through the day. Building swell for the east side of the lake with W gales developing through the day.
SUNDAY: NW gales 25 to 35 knots with higher gusts. Winds backing off through the day. Waves 7 to 9 feet with the cleanest conditions late in the day as winds lighten.
GREAT LAKES SURF FORECASTING
First thing's first: want to go really deep into Great Lakes wave forecasting? Scroll to the bottom of this page for the live webinar we did in October 2018.
While predicting waves on most ocean coasts has become a science of its own, with countless surf reports, surf-specific web cams, and detailed forecasts, surf forecasting in the Great Lakes is in its relative infancy. To put it bluntly; you have to work at it. Fortunately, there are now numerous resources available, mostly via the World Wide Web. Read on for a look into surf forecasting on the Great Lakes.
Finding waves is easy. Finding good waves is the challenge.
What makes waves? It's simple: wind. We need wind to make waves, but we also need a good stretch of water for the wind to blow over to produce those waves. That brings us to something called fetch - the length of water the wind is blowing over. Look at any beach on a map and find the longest amount of fetch connected to the beach, and that will tell you what wind direction you need to make waves at that beach. And, keep in mind that a stated wind direction means the wind is coming from that direction (a north wind blows from the north to the south).
Some beaches get waves from many directions, but the above example would theoretically build the biggest waves. The size of the waves depends on factors such as wind speed, wind direction, wind duration, the amount of fetch, and the bottom contours over which the waves are breaking; but the fetch is probably the most important factor. An example? If you were in New Buffalo, on southern Lake Michigan, a west wind (blowing from Chicago to New Buffalo) only has about 50 miles of fetch, but a north wind (blowing from the Upper Peninsula) has about 300 miles of fetch - which wind direction do you think produces bigger waves in New Buffalo?
Assembled here are some of the most functional and easy-to-use online tools for finding waves in the Great Lakes. Included are wind maps, wave models, and other relevant links that can be found in any serious lake surfer's online arsenal. Read the description for each, then dive in and start to get to know them. Your reward? Good, uncrowded waves that even an ocean surfer would be stoked to find.
- iWindsurf - Simple, trusted wind forecasting source for all of the Great Lakes
- Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System (GLCFS) - A color coded, 5-day wind map for all of the Great Lakes.
- Sailflow - Another functional wind forecasting tool for all of the Great Lakes.
- Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System (GLCFS) - A color coded, 5-day wave map for all of the Great Lakes.
- Western Great Lakes Buoys - Click on a buoy or weather station for current wind and wave data.
- Eastern Great Lakes Buoys - Click on a buoy or weather station for current wind and wave data.
- Great Lakes Observing System - Click on a buoy or weather station for current wind and wave data.
- Coastwatch (Michigan : Superior : Huron : Erie : Ontario) - Click your lake for current water temps.
- Great Lakes Ice Coverage - Click the link for the date you're looking for.
LIVE LOCAL WEBCAMS
- New Buffalo - A live video feed from New Buffalo, Michigan
- St. Joseph Lighthouse - A live video feed from 1st St. in St. Joseph, Michigan.
- Silver Beach, St. Joseph - A live video feed from Silver Beach in St. Joseph, Michigan.
WHO IS DR. FRESH?
Our forecasting expert, Dr. Fresh, is a Midwest transplant from the East Coast. Like most of us, he makes the best of his situation and tries to think he can actually surf a lake. When not attempting this, Dr. Fresh can be found looking at weather maps trying to nail down our next swell. He has a degree in atmospheric science and is a meteorologist by profession (yep, on TV), so we'll just assume he knows what he's doing.