Thursday, April 25, 2013

Harmful Algae Blooms Plague Lake Erie Again

... Lake Erie suffered from toxic algae blooms in the 1970s, but with a major effort to reduce phosphorus loading, the blooms disappeared for nearly two decades. By the mid 1990s, conditions began to deteriorate again. When I sailed across the lake in late summer 2004, an algae bloom stretched from the Erie Islands to the western shore.

A recent forensic-like study of the 2011 bloom, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, gives new insight about possible causes of these extreme events.

The National Science Foundation awarded a five-year grant to a team of researchers to study the effects of climate-change induced extreme events on water quality and ecology in the Great Lakes system. “It was a coincidence that the project began in January 2011, and this perfect case study popped up out of nowhere,” a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science and principal investigator for the study, Anna M. Michalak explained to me.

Using a holistic approach, the team brought together high-tech tools and sophisticated statistical analysis to assess whether the record-setting algal bloom in Lake Erie was driven by an unfortunate combination of circumstances or is a sign of things to come. They concluded that trends in agricultural practices, increased intensity of precipitation, weak lake circulation, and quiescent conditions conspired to yield the massive bloom.

National Geographic 
24 Apr 2013
L Borre

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Huge algae blooms a worry on Lake Erie

The warming climate and modern farming practices are creating ideal conditions for gigantic algae formations on Lake Erie — like the record bloom in 2011 — to become the norm, says a new study. That would be potentially disastrous to the area’s multibillion-dollar tourist economy.

It was the largest algae bloom in Lake Erie’s recorded history: a scummy, toxic blob that oozed across nearly one-fifth of the lake’s surface during summer and fall 2011. It sucked oxygen from the water, clogged boat motors and washed ashore in rotting masses that turned beachgoers’ stomachs.
It was also likely an omen of things to come, experts said in a study released Monday.

...According to the report, which was compiled by more than two dozen scientists, the 2011 runaway bloom was fueled by phosphorus-laden fertilizers swept from corn and soybean fields during heavy rainstorms. Weak currents and calm winds prevented churning and flushing that could have cut its rampant growth.

The Seattle Times
06 Apr 2013
J Flesher
Location: Lake Erie