There has been considerable debate over the past three decades concerning the specific cause of the loss of the ship the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior on 10 November 1975, but there is little question that weather played a role in the disaster. There were only a few surface observations available during the height of the storm, so it is difficult to assess the true severity and meteorological rarity of the event. In order to identify likely weather conditions that occurred during the storm of 9–10 November 1975, high-resolution numerical simulations were conducted in an attempt to assess wind and wave conditions throughout the storm. Comparisons are made between output from the model simulations and available observational data from the event to assess the accuracy of the simulations. Given a favorable comparison, more detailed output from the simulations is presented, with a focus on high-resolution output over Lake Superior between 1800 UTC 9 November 1975 and 0600 UTC 11 November 1975. A detailed analysis of low-level sustained wind and significant wave height output is presented, illustrating the severity of the conditions and speed with which they developed and later subsided during the event. The high temporal and spatial resolution of the model output helps provide a more detailed depiction of conditions on Lake Superior than has previously been available.

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NOAA/National Weather Service, Marquette, Michigan

NOAA/National Weather Service, Cleveland, Ohio

NOAA/Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, Ann Arbor, Michigan