FLBSCollage

Flathead Lake Buoys Overview

Flathead Lake Water Quality Monitoring Buoy

Two new automated buoys now reside in Flathead Lake, providing a platform for a suite of instruments that allow continuous, automated measurements of water quality and meteorological conditions. Data is transmitted to FLBS and made available to the public in near real-time offering local agencies, lake sportsmen, and the general public tangible benefits:

  • More data on lake water column and surface conditions
  • Better fishing information based on current mid-lake water column temperatures and surface conditions
  • Better boating advisories providing up-to-date conditions more often from more sites around Flathead Lake

All boaters are asked to stay at least 50 yards away from the buoys so as not to disturb the measurements or destroy the sensitive equipment. Please report any suspicious behavior to FLBS at 406-982-3301.

 


Buoy Data & Questions

Where can I access the buoy data?

FLBS buoy data is now available to the public through the FLBS weather center.

 

UM Press Release and Media Coverage

The official UM press release may be read here pdf icon.

KPAX News Coverage

Montana NPRCoverage - listen now audio icon (begins at ~3:48 mark)

 

More details on the Flathead Lake buoys

The Flathead Lake Biological Station (The University of Montana) at Yellow Bay worked with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to develop the two buoys in Flathead Lake. These buoys provide a platform for a suite of instruments that allow continuous, automated measurements of water quality in the water column and meteorological conditions on the Lake. Conditions in the water column are measured by sensors on a device called a profiler that travels up and down a cable from the buoy to the bottom of the lake. The meterological sensors are mounted on the buoys. The buoys are located along the deep trench in the middle of the lake. One is deployed west of Yellow Bay and the other west of Woods Bay.

These monitoring systems were originally designed for use in the Arctic Ocean by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute but have been modified for use in Flathead and Crater Lakes. Data generated from the surface meteorological sensors is radio-telemetered back to FLBS while water quality information from the automated subsurface profiler is telemetered via satellite to Woods Hole and FLBS. All data will be available near real-time to the public via the FLBS website. The meteorological station measures and provides averages of wind speed, wind direction, barometric pressure, air temperature, solar radiation and humidity every 15 minutes. The subsurface automated profiler travels down through the water column at least 4 times per day. Sensors measure water temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, algal pigments, light, and dissolved organic matter every 25 centimeters as the profiler travels from the surface to the bottom. Video surveillance for security purposes is present on both buoys.

Information from the buoys gives boaters midlake weather conditions making it easier to plan open water travel. Fishermen may be particularly interested in temperature changes throughout the water column, allowing them to concentrate on fishing particular thermal regions. Federal, State, county and tribal agencies as well as local schools may benefit from the wide array of water quality information for Flathead Lake while data generated from these two sites will provide scientists at the Biological Station better resolution of changing conditions in lake water quality and surface meteorology. Funding for the buoy-tethered profilers was provided by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Boaters are asked to stay at least 50 yards away from the buoys so as not to disturb the measurements or destroy the sensitive equipment. Information from these buoys are extremely important for conservation of Flathead Lake. We ask that everyone become a lake guardian and support our joint efforts in providing information that will keep Flathead Lake blue.

Please contact the Biological Station if you have any questions or concerns.