Earlier today, NOAA and partners released their forecast of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) for the summer of 2016. The official predicted bloom severity came in at a 5.5, far milder than last year’s 10.5, although still significant.
This spring has been relatively dry, sporting a 4 inch rain deficit since May 2016, and flows in the Maumee River are down. Consequently, the amount of total bioavailable phosphorus flowing into Lake Erie that could feed blooms is lower than the past three years.
This doesn’t mean the source of the nutrients – mainly agricultural runoff – has been addressed. Heavy, intense rainfall in the future could pick up excess nutrients and create severe blooms again.
There is a high uncertainty associated with this summer’s forecast (ranging from 3 to 7) because we don’t know for sure what the overwinter effect from last summer’s bloom is going to be — phosphorous and algae material could remain in the water and boost this year’s bloom.
NOAA GLERL and partners will be keeping an eye on Lake Erie all summer, and in September, we’ll be sending our Environmental Sample Processor (ESPniagara) on its first mission to monitor algal toxins in real-time near the Toledo water intake.