The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its research partners predict that western Lake Erie will experience a less severe bloom than the record-setting one experienced last year during the harmful algal bloom season. The outlook reflects less discharge from the Maumee River and a return to an average nutrient runoff into the lake.
The 2016 bloom is expected to measure 5.5 on the severity index, but could range anywhere between 3.0 and 7.0. The forecast is similar to conditions last seen from 2008 to 2010, although the bloom may be as small as that seen in the relatively mild year of 2004.
The severity index is based on a bloom’s biomass—the amount of its harmful algae. An index above 5.0 indicates blooms of concern. The extreme bloom of 2011 was a 10. Last year’s was 10.5, the greatest on record.
This year’s bloom is expected to first appear in late July and increase in August in the far western basin of Lake Erie. The location and effects will depend on prevailing winds. During calm winds, some areas may experience scums that contain substantial concentrations of algal toxins.
“This year we’ve added a Maumee River flow forecast model that increases our confidence in the seasonal outlook and may allow us to produce a specific harmful algal bloom forecast even earlier in the season,” said Russell Callender, Ph.D., assistant NOAA administrator for the National Ocean Service.
The seasonal outlook uses models that translate spring nutrient loading into predicted algal blooms. After three years with wet springs, this spring has had more typical rainfall, leading to more normal discharge from the Maumee River. As a result there is less phosphorus entering Lake Erie and fewer nutrients to fuel a bloom.
“With a return to average spring discharge, and much lower river flow in June than in the recent years, the western basin should look better. However, the phosphorus inputs to the lake are still high enough to support bloom development,” said Richard Stumpf, Ph.D., NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science’s lead for the Lake Erie bloom forecast.
NOAA will provide twice-weekly updates for the bloom in western Lake Erie.
Also the City of Toledo continues to offer a water quality meter on its website. It is currently listed as clear and safe to drink with no mircocystin detected. The website is http://toledo.oh.gov/services/public-utilities/water-treatment/water-quality/.