Record Lake Erie algal bloom may be harbinger of more to come

By on April 8, 2013
The 2011 algal bloom in Lake Erie from Kelley's Island. (Credit: T. Joyce/NOAA GLERL)

A record-breaking 2011 Lake Erie algal bloom was the result of a perfect storm of causes, but it is likely a repeatable combination, according to a newly released collaborative study.

Several factors came together to fuel the  2011 bloom, which was three times larger than the previous 2008 record bloom.

Dissolved reactive phosphorus loading, mainly attributed to runoff, draining through the Maumee River supplied food for the algae. A storm event churned lake waters before the bloom, suspending nutrients. Calm, warm weather conditions following the bloom made for ideal algae growth conditions.

The authors conclude that agricultural practices are not likely to change and seasonally calm, warm weather patterns are on the rise, so the future will likely bring more large blooms.

Authors from Michigan Tech, University of Michigan, University of Toledo, Stanford University, Grace College and many other government and private organizations collaborated on the report.

Image: The 2011 algal bloom in Lake Erie from Kelley’s Island. (Credit: T. Joyce/NOAA GLERL)

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