Lake Erie algae bloom expected to be less severe than ’15 version

Sandusky, Ohio — Early reports suggest this year’s algae bloom on Lake Erie will not be as substantial as last year, researchers said.

NOAA’s National Center for Coastal Ocean Engineering and the Great Lakes Environmental Research Labs issued its first harmful algae bloom prediction for Western Lake Erie on May 17.

The reasons for releasing early forecasts are to allow coastal managers, such as water treatment operators and health and tourism officials to better focus on problem locations and prepare for their effects, according to the NOAA forecasting labs.

The updated predictions will be issued weekly until the final summer forecast is issued in July, while adding more data as spring conditions evolve. This will allow a more accurate and complete data set to be collected, before switching to a twice-weekly running summary of current algal bloom locations.

On a scale of 0-10, the projected bloom is initially expected to fall into the 3-6 range, with a maximum peak expected to be no higher than 7. The 2015 bloom peaked at over 10, exceeding the 10.0 reached in 2011.

These predictions are based upon phosphorus loading input measurements taken by Heidelberg University’s National Center for Water Quality Research Lab personnel at dozens of monitoring stations.

Previous studies have established the relationship between the amounts of bioavailable phosphorus being added into the Maumee River from March 1 to July 31 and the severity of summer algae blooms.

As of May 15, Maumee River loading has been in the average range at 157 metric tons – far lower than the record high years of over 700 metric tons in both 2015 and 2011. The cause of the record algae bloom last year was attributed to the 7.22 inches of rain received in June, more than double the average for Toledo. This year’s June precipitation is expected to be closer to normal.

Harmful algae blooms, abbreviated as HABs, are commonly referred to as blue-green algae, but are actually cyanobacteria. They are capable of producing their own food through photosynthesis and produce much of the Earth’s atmospheric oxygen.

Many produce toxins that can affect other algae, their predators, and human liver, digestive, and nervous systems and should be avoided.

Grand Lake St. Marys at Celina already has microcystin readings above advisory levels, but Lake Erie normally sees HABs begin to form later in the spring or early summer. They typically start in Maumee Bay before expanding to the Bass Islands and the Sandusky sub-basin.

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