Harmful Algae Bloom Operational Forecast System – Perfect For Great Lakes

468px-NOAA_logoThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAAHarmful Algae Bloom (HAB) Operational Forecast System (OFS), which monitors bloom activity in the Gulf of Mexico from FL through TX, is working its way into the Great Lakes region.

Already, NOAA offers some OFS capabilities, the complete list of which appears via this link, but HAB monitoring is not yet a part.

Look for that to change and, though the HAB monitoring may have limited impact in area that already does a good job of monitoring bacteria levels such as E.coli (see: Wisconsin Beach Health), the extra involvement from NOAA certainly underscores the tremendously negative impact HAB have in freshwater and saltwater ecosystems alike.

Lake Erie: Summer 2015 & Here We Go Again

According to a July 29, 2015 AP from release from The Blade newspaper out of Toledo, OH, toxic algae blooms are reappearing as expected in Lake Erie, and the usual suspects are believed to be the cause: climate change, combined sewage overflows, malfunctioning septic systems, and agricultural runoff.


So which of these sources is likely to be the greatest contributor to the problem?


Satellite View of Lake Erie Algae Bloom
Satellite View of Lake Erie Algae Bloom

Research suggests that agricultural runoff — when manure spread on fields or in barns flows into lakes, rivers and streams after rains or thaws — is by far the largest source. Over 60%, according to this recent article from Scientific American.



Something can be done — such as assisting farmers in implementing better land management practices — to curb this harmful, toxic runoff. And it must. Preferably sooner than later.

Why Lake Erie is choking on algae blooms

Poor Lake Erie.

Not the largest of the Great Lakes, but still plenty big, why does this poor body of water get hit so hard every summer — almost covered with algae — when largely unregulated agricultural runoff dumps tons of waste into the rivers that empty into this lake?

Lake Erie, OH
Lake Erie, OH

Lake Superior, by contrast, is the greatest of the Great Lakes, and almost so clean that if one were to go far enough off shore, she/he MIGHT be able to drop in a cup and drink up.

Try that in Lake Erie at the height of the algae bloom and it is very possible she/he will die.

So — what gives?

Well, for starters Lake Erie has far more people, industry, and — perhaps most importantly — agriculture around it. But that’s not all.

Lake Erie is shallow. On average only about 60 feet deep. Lake Superior? 10 times deeper. At least.

In fact, to fully empty Lake Superior and replace it with totally new freshwater takes 191 years. Lake Erie? Two and one-half years.

It is no wonder then, that poor Lake Erie chokes on algae every summer.

But here’s the encouraging news. With effective agricultural land management, a lot can be accomplished quickly, to stop the farm runoff that is pouring into the lake.

Get to the worst spots first, make a major impact on reducing the waste, and poor Lake Erie isn’t so poor anymore. In fact, it cleans up really fast.

And everyone who lives around it loves the abundant benefits a healthy Lake Erie provides.