The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) once again issued a seasonal harmful algal bloom (HAB) forecast for western Lake Erie at an all-day press event at Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory. This third forecast predicts a significant bloom for this summer, but suggests it will be smaller than last year’s bloom.
New this year was a numerical scale given for bloom severity. 2011’s harmful algal bloom was the most severe bloom seen in decades, topping the scale at a score of 10. 2013’s bloom received a score of 8, while this year’s bloom is expected to be a 5 or 6 on the 10-point scale.
You can view the full forecast as a recording right here, or at youtu.be/9xRuZuOk9wI
“Significant means that people will notice a bloom”? explains Dr. Richard Stumpf, Oceanographer at NCCOS. However, bloom impacts will vary heavily with lakeshore locations, meaning shoreline visitors should easily be able to plan around a bloom of this size, even more so than they could last year. Stumpf recommended that those interested in getting updates about HABs in Lake Erie subscribe to NOAA’s Harmful Algal Blooms in Lake Erie Bulletin, which offers weekly updates of bloom locations and impacts.
These updates are not only important for researchers, but also for businesses in Ohio’s 8 coastal counties, which rely heavily on tourism income. Melinda Huntley, Executive Director of the Ohio Travel Association, also emphasized the importance of accurate reporting of a bloom’s severity and location in the media. “Be specific about location, both where the bloom is and where it’s not”? Huntley said. “In the tourism industry, perception is reality. If we’re not careful about the way we communicate the issue, we could do more harm than good, and what’s at risk is about $11.9 billion in tourism income.”?
Representatives from NOAA, Heidelberg University, the University of Toledo, Lake Erie charter boat captains, and Ohio Sea Grant were also on hand to answer questions related to the forecast and HABs in general.
Phosphorus, which is contained in animal manure and many commercial fertilizers, tends to be the nutrient that determines how much harmful algae can grow in Lake Erie. Phosphorus usually enters the lake in the form of fertilizer runoff from agricultural fields, as well as through combined sewer overflows from cities caused by heavy rains.
Harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie most often consist of Microcystis, a cyanobacterium — more commonly called blue-green alga — that can produce a liver toxin called microcystin. The toxin can be removed from drinking water drawn from the lake, but increases the cost of water treatment by $3,000 or more per day. In addition, harmful algal blooms can severely reduce tourism income, as recreational water use is made hazardous by the toxin, or unpleasant by layers of blue-green algae floating on the water’s surface. Being able to forecast the HAB’s extent allows community officials and tourism managers to prepare for its impacts and adjust seasonal budgets in advance instead of reacting to the event as it happens.
NOAA’s press release on the HABs forecast is available at ohioseagrant.osu.edu/news/?article=691.
Images are available for download at www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2014/20140710_erie_hab.html, or they can be requested from Ohio Sea Grant. Images of previous HABs in Lake Erie are available at www.flickr.com/photos/ohioseagrant/sets/72157627913398235.
Located on the 6.5-acre Gibraltar Island in Put-in-Bay harbor, Stone Laboratory is The Ohio State University’s Island Campus on Lake Erie and the education and research facility of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program. The Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant College Program is part of NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 32 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. For information on Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab, visit ohioseagrant.osu.edu.
ContactJill Banicki Ohio Sea Grant firstname.lastname@example.org