Monday, July 12, 2010

Forecasting Great Lakes Harmful Algal Blooms

Jul 9: Predicting harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the Great Lakes is now a reality as NOAA's Center of Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health (CEGLHH) launches the Lake Erie Experimental HAB Forecast System for the second summer. According to an announcement from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), "A nowcast and forecast depicting current and future (48 hour prediction) locations of blooms, as well as intensity, will alert scientists and managers to possible threats to the Great Lakes beaches and assist in mitigation efforts."

    This summer's weekly forecast is being shared with environmental health and drinking water managers, who are assisting CEGLHH in ground-truthing predicted blooms in Lake Erie. Subscribers to the Lake Erie HAB Forecast have access to an on-line HAB Observational Survey to provide information on algal blooms that are occurring in Lake Erie, which will get CEGLHH one step closer to having the first operational HAB Forecast in the Great Lakes.

    According to the GLRI announcement, harmful algal blooms occur in the waters of almost every U.S. coastal state. HABs produce toxins that may pose a significant health risk to human and animal health through water recreation and may form scum that are unsightly and odorous to beach visitors, impacting the coastal economy. Direct economic impacts of blooms in the United States have been estimated to average $75 million annually, including impacts on public health, commercial fishing closures, recreation and tourism losses, and in management and monitoring costs.

    Advance warning of blooms increases the ability to mitigate the impacts of these events. The Lake Erie harmful algal bloom experimental forecast bulletin works by integrating data from various ocean-observing systems, including imagery from commercial and government satellites; meteorological data from NOAA observing stations; and field data collected by state and university monitoring programs. This information is then synthesized and interpreted by an expert analyst, in order to determine the current and future location and intensity of Microcystis blooms works by using a combination of satellite imagery, coastal forecasting models, and field sampling. Since 2005, the Center of Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health has been focused on developing tools to assist coastal managers. The Lake Erie HAB Forecast is one tool that seeks to make on-the-ground decision making easier for local managers.

    Access the GLRI announcement with links to more information on the Lake Erie HAB Forecast (click here).