Report forecasts algae blooms to worsen, meetings to address water quality

With warmer temperatures and increased rainfall due to climate change, there will likely be more “prolonged occurrences of low-oxygen ‘dead zones’” and “harmful, lengthy, and dense algae growth in the Great Lakes,” according to a federal report on climate change.

The report, which was issued by 13 federal agencies, paints a bleak picture of the lakes‘ future, citing: “higher temperatures, increases in precipitation, and lengthened growing seasons favor production of blue-green and toxic algae that can harm fish, water quality, habitats, and aesthetics and could heighten the impact of invasive species already present.”

“We‘ve already seen in water temperature, a decrease in lake ice cover and changes in the circulation of the (Great) lakes which is how oxygen and nutrients are mixed in the waters,” said Jenna Jorns, program manager of the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessment, one of eleven National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-funded regional centers, which works to manage risks from climate change in the Great Lakes.

“These changes are compounded by existing stressors … All together this impacts habitats, fisheries, and coastal communities as well as regionwide with shipping, transportation and tourism sectors,” said Jorns, who is also an author of the national climate report’s Midwest chapter.

The report was released last month, ahead of two state meetings this week about the future of Lake Erie where four years ago blooms from the lake contaminated the Toledo’s water supply, making it unsafe for residents. Each year, the algae plaques the lake with green scum.

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