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Scientists: This year's bloom likely to be bigger than last year's

By Tom Jackson • May 23, 2019 at 9:00 PM

Scientists say it’s too early to say how big 2019’s Lake Erie harmful algal bloom will be.

But they already think it will be larger than last year’s small bloom.

The 2018 bloom had a severity index of 3.6 on a scale in which 10 is the severe algal bloom of 2011, and 10.5 is an even bigger bloom recorded as 2015.

While it’s too early to give an accurate forecast for this year, it’s already likely it will be larger than a 5, according to an early season projection issued Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency which issues algal bloom bulletins via email.

The two scientists who wrote Thursday’s message — Richard Stumpf, a NOAA oceanographer and an algal bloom specialists, and Laura Johnson, director of the National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University — say that’s likely because heavy April rains produced a high river flow in the Maumee River and high phosphorus loads.                   

The annual forecasts for the harmful algal bloom in western Lake Erie is based on the amount of phosphorus from March 1 to July 31.

Much of the forecast will depend on how much rain falls during May, June and early July, so the forecast will become more accurate as more rain data comes in, the pair said. A final forecast will be issued on July 11, the two scientists said.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, noticed the forecast and said officials need to keep working to deal with the problem.

“Lake Erie is one of Ohio’s most important natural resources and we must do all we can to keep it healthy for the businesses, farmers and residents who rely on it,” Brown said. “We need long-term investments in Lake Erie -- like those outlined in last year’s Farm Bill -- as well as an unequivocal commitment from the Administration to support federal programs that we know successfully keep Lake Erie clean.”

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