Forecasters Predict Larger Algae Bloom in Lake Erie [CHART]

NOAA issues early forecast based on amount of phosphorus in the water.

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

They’re back.

Algae are blooming in western Lake Erie, as they do every year, and this year’s bloom is likely to be relatively large. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says on a severity scale of 1 to 10, this year’s bloom is likely to be at least a 6. By comparison, last year’s bloom was a 4. 

Researcher Rick Stumpf says this is an early season forecast, which tends to be less accurate as later projections.

“We do have uncertainty on this because we are using forecasts going 60 days out,” Stumpf says. “They’re not as accurate as forecasts for the next few days.”

Phosphorus is often found in agricultural chemicals such as fertilizer. When it rains, fertilizer runs off into streams and rivers that flow into Lake Erie. While Ohio has taken steps to reduce the impact of phosphorus on Lake Erie, Stumpf says heavy rain this spring has already put a large amount of phosphorus into the lake. He also says changing weather patterns, such as the wind, can affect the sized and shape of the bloom, and later forecasts will be more reliable.

“By the first week or two in July, we have pretty much all the phosphorus that will cause the bloom,” Stumpf says. “So at that point we can do the best last forecast of how big the bloom will be.”

This year’s bloom is expected to be larger than the one that polluted Toledo’s water system in 2014. But Stumpf stresses that a larger bloom is not necessarily more toxic.

Click on the audio player to hear the conversation with WDET’s Pat Batcheller.

Algae Bloom Forecast 5/23/19 by WDET 101.9 FM on Scribd


  • Pat Batcheller
    Pat Batcheller is a host and Senior News Editor for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news, traffic and weather updates during Morning Edition. He is an amateur musician.