Potentially Harmful Algal Bloom Expected In Western Lake Erie This Summer

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officially announced that Lake Erie will be hit with another massive harmful algal bloom (HAB) in summer as the amount of phosphorous that entered the lake doubled in amount compared to 2016.

Early forecasts predict that this year's algal bloom will come close to the destructive 2015 levels but the agency hopes its early public warning could help in preventing serious damage.

According to early projections, the Western Lake Erie's algal bloom could reach a severity score of 7.5, but could also register anywhere between 6 and 9.5. The agency developed its scoring method with 10 as the highest but the destructive 2015 algal bloom registered at 10.5 due to its severity.

"It'll be large, green and ugly and will cause the same kinds of issues it has in the past for charter boat captains trying to get people out to fish," University of Michigan scientist Don Scavia said.

How Dangerous Will The Algal Bloom Be?

As mentioned above, officials expect the HAB in Western Lake Erie to register a 7.5, which is already quite severe. However, NOAA's partners also assure that only parts of Lake Erie will be affected by the cyanobacteria bloom.

"Despite the predicted size of this year's bloom, much of the lake will be algae-free throughout the bloom season and the lake remains a key asset for the state," Ohio Sea Grant College Program director, Dr. Christopher Winslow, Ph.D. assures.

Experts also explain that a large bloom does not necessarily mean increased toxicity in the waters since it would still depend on the concentration of toxins present. However, the fact that toxins are present in the water still poses significant health risks to humans, pets, and livestock so it is advised that the public refrain from drinking or even wading in the water during the algal bloom, even if it does not look contaminated.

More Details On Predicted HAB

The NOAA and its research partners expect the HAB to begin towards the end of July but the agency will also release bi-weekly forecasts during the algal bloom.

NOAA is confident that it can provide more detailed and accurate information to the public with regard to the upcoming algal bloom with the help of satellite data that will be collected by Sentinel-3.

"Sentinel-3 will provide additional detail and sensitivity, and it will assure our ability to assess the state of Lake Erie well into the next decade," Dr. Richard Stumpf revealed. Dr. Stumpf is the lead scientist for the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science's seasonal forecast on Lake Erie HABs.

He also added that a second Sentinel-3 is scheduled to launch in late 2017 to provide even more detailed data.

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