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Environment & Energy

Scientists Forecast 'Significant' Lake Erie Algae Blooms for This Year

photo of Lake Erie algae
ELIZABETH MILLER
/
WCPN
Scientists say this year's bloom appeared sooner than expected.

Each year, scientists forecast just how bad the algae bloom will be on Lake Erie. And this summer, the green scum is already forming.

Scientists predict a significant harmful algae bloom for western Lake Erie this year.

The forecast, a joint effort between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Heidelberg University and other partners, predicts a bloom severity of six on a 10-point scale. The forecast is better than last year's, but worse than in 2016.

The bloom popped up earlier than normal this year, but NOAA scientist Rick Stumpf said an early bloom is not indicative of a severe one.

“We saw a little scum. We’ll see a little more,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean we’re going to have a worse bloom this year. It just means it started up earlier. The timing may go a little bit earlier overall.”

It wasn’t until September of last year that algae blooms peaked in western Lake Erie, where the warmer, shallower water helps breed algae from nearby farm runoff.

Last year, Lake Erie charter boat captains estimated a 25-percent loss in business because of people canceling trips to avoid the green scum. Stumpf said boaters can look to NOAA’s harmful algae bloom bulletins for a bloom analysis.

The blooms can be harmful if ingested by humans and pets, but Stumpf said the blooms will only impact a small part of the lake.

“A lot of the lake will be fine, most of the central basin, but even in the western basin,” he said. “There will be areas that’ll be good, and right now they are good.”

NOAA will continue issuing bulletins twice-weekly throughout the summer.