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29 March 2019 Spatial and Temporal Variation of Surf Drownings in the Great Lakes: 2010–17
Brent Vlodarchyk, Anthony Olivito, Chris Houser
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Abstract

Vlodarchyk, B.; Olivito, A., and Houser, C., 2019. Spatial and temporal variation of surf drownings in the Great Lakes: 2010–17. Journal of Coastal Research, 35(4), 794–804. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.

Drownings on the Great Lakes are an emerging public health issue in the United States and Canada, but little is known about the physical and human dimensions of drowning and associated coastal hazards in this region. This study describes spatial and temporal variation of surf-zone drownings on the Great Lakes between 2010 and 2017 with respect to the demographics of the drowning victims, proximity to population centers, and interannual variations in the regional climate. A total of 391 drownings were reported on the Great Lakes during this period, but there is considerable variability in the number of drownings among the lakes and from year to year. The largest number of drownings occurred on Lake Michigan (n = 207; 53%), with most drownings concentrated along the southern end of the lake, near large population centers. The number of drownings in the other lakes ranged from 67 in Lake Erie (17%) to 27 (7%) in Lake Superior. Most drownings during this period occurred in the summer months of June, July, and August, with a disproportionate number occurring on a Sunday (n=102; 26%). Most drownings involved males between 10 and 30 years old (n = 167; 43%), with males between 15 and 20 years old accounting for the largest proportion of drownings (n = 69; 18%). Most drownings occurred during periods when wind speeds (a proxy for wave height) were relatively weak (2–5 m s-1), although there were many drownings when winds ranged from 5 to 10 m s-1. The number of drownings in each year was found to be dependent on air and water temperature, annual precipitation, and the concentration of ice in the previous winter. The identified relationships suggest that the number of drownings is expected to increase in the future with a warming climate, which, in turn, suggests a need for increased education and lifesaving programs in the region.

© Coastal Education and Research Foundation, Inc. 2019
Brent Vlodarchyk, Anthony Olivito, and Chris Houser "Spatial and Temporal Variation of Surf Drownings in the Great Lakes: 2010–17," Journal of Coastal Research 35(4), 794-804, (29 March 2019). https://doi.org/10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-18-00027.1
Received: 6 March 2018; Accepted: 8 January 2019; Published: 29 March 2019
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beach safety
Climate
natural hazards
rip currents
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