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Erie Algae Forecast: Bloom Is Early But Better Than Last Year

Western Lake Erie in September 2017 [Elizabeth Miller/ideastream]

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 ten-point scale. The forecast is better than last year, but worse than 2016.

This year's forecast compared to past years [NOAA]

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

“We saw a little scum, we’ll see a little more,” said Stumpf. “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 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 due to people cancelling trips to avoid the green scum. Stumpf says 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 says 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,” said Stumpf. “There will be areas that’ll be good, and right now they are good.”

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