NOAA releases incredible aerial images of Lake Erie’s Harmful Algal Blooms

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (NOAA GLERL) is sharing incredible new images of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in Lake Erie as seen from the sky.

Aerial view of a Harmful Algal Bloom in the western basin of Lake Erie. – NOAA GLERL
Aerial view of a Harmful Algal Bloom in the western basin of Lake Erie. – NOAA GLERL

The pictures are part of a new research undertaking by NOAA GLERL to better map and understand the scope of HABs in the western basin of Lake Erie.

HABs occur annually across the lake. A cyanobacteria, Microcystis sp., is responsible for the green murky mess. Significant blooms in the western basin are a threat to public health, the economy, and the environment of the Great Lakes region.

These significant algal blooms are best known for their prominent role in the 2014 water crisis in Toledo, Ohio that left more than 400,000 people without drinkable water for many days.

We’ve written frequently about the growing dangers of HABs to the Great Lakes region (here and here). The NOAA Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom forecast projects this year’s bloom to one of the worst on record.

Harmful Algal Bloom in the western basin of Lake Erie.
Aerial view of a Harmful Algal Bloom in the western basin of Lake Erie. – NOAA GLERL

This is due in part to the increased annual precipitation in the region and the resulting phosphorous run-off from Ohio farm land. Cyanobacteria feed on the phosphorous.

In a statement, NOAA GLERL says that “in addition to these amazing photos, during the flyovers, additional images are taken by a hyperspectral imager (mounted on the back of the aircraft) to improve our understanding of how to map and detect HABs. The lead PI for this project is Dr. Andrea VanderWoude.”

To see more photos visit NOAA GLERL’s Flickr set.

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