Have plans to go to Lake Erie later this summer? NOAA released their algae bloom forecast for 2014. Be ready to change your beach spot later this summer if needed.
A sizable algae bloom will impact certain areas of western Lake Erie later this summer. The bloom is predicted to be smaller than it was in recent years, but still above the 12-year average. NOAA is also reporting that the green algae bloom will impact certain shorelines of Lake Erie this time, instead of being evenly spread out.
Yesterday’s forecast calls for more than 24,000 tons of blue-green algae to spread out over Lake Erie’s waters.
How does this stuff form? Fertilizer runoff flows into the lake and feeds the growth of cyanobacteria (that’s the blue-green algae). NOAA bases their forecasts off models of fertilizer runoff plus tracking snowmelt and precipitation.
Is the algae bad for you? Yep. The algae blooms can adversely affect marine life and swimmers. Most of the algae absorbs oxygen and creates dead zones. Some types of the algae ooze toxins that can lead to liver, skin, nerve and kidney damage.
More good news? Lake Erie is used as a drinking source for millions of people in U.S. and Canada. Better strap on a filter to your sink tap. Just kidding, the algae bloom is more of an ecological and economic problem (tourism).
What’s the history behind the algae blooms? They were a problem back in the 1960s, but started to clear up in the early 1970s following a water quality agreement. For about 30 years, Lake Erie was pretty clean. That changed at the turn of the century as farmers adopted new methods to apply fertilizer to their farms. These new methods combined with snowmelt and precipitation led to rampant runoffs into Lake Erie.
What do you need to do? Just be mindful of the potential for an algae bloom impacting western portions of Lake Erie later this summer. Have a couple of other spots as a backup plan in case the beach you’re heading to has algae in the water.
Image: NOAA satellite image from last year shows algae bloom. 2013’s bloom was larger than what 2014’s is expected to be.