Who would have thought there could be an algae bloom with snow on the ground?

Lake Erie is the fourth largest Great Lake- is 210 miles long by 57 miles wide totally nearly 10,000 sq. miles of water.  It is called a lake but because of its shallow 62 foot average depth with a 210 foot maximum acts like a river.  The whole mass is inexorably flowing towards the Niagara River, a plunge over the Niagara Falls and exit into the final Great Lake, Ontario.

At one time Lake Erie was a great commercial fishery.  American and Canadian boats would head out into the Lake daily to catch, Walleye, Perch and other species.  Then environmental disaster hit the lakes and industrial waste began to decrease fish stock.  All the while 150 years of navigation on the Lakes aided by the Erie Canal at first and then more dramatically with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway   ballast water transfers from such ships have introduced invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels, spiny waterfleas, Eurasian ruffe, sea lamprey and the round goby joined in suppressing native fish stock.

By 1970 the New York fishing fleet based in Dunkirk shut down.  Today all that remains is Canadian fleet with some 178 licenses. (Source: Walleye Central).  Canadian sportsmen don’t like that at all.

Compared to the old days Lake Erie was pretty much dead.   Things were so bad that both the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, OH and the Buffalo River in Buffalo, NY each caught fire.  Well, it really wasn’t the rivers that burnt it was the chemical and industrial wastes that had found their way into those streams and ignited.

That was 40 years.  Environmental laws were enacted, heavy industry died, phosphates were removed from soaps and detergents, dredging operations were done in the most seriously affected feeders streams and shorelines  to aid in the clean.  The lake started making a comeback.  By 2000 Lake Erie became one of the world’s great freshwater sport fishing destinations. Fishing charters sprung up.  Captains made money, sportsmen were happy.  There was potential in the air.  The Bass Masters even came to Buffalo Harbor and the Niagara River to run one of the great fishing competitions.

Lake Erie could once again become another plank in the hull of the ship that was once Western New York’s thriving economy.

Are red flags being raised once again?  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Environment Visualization Laboratory  released a report 2 days ago that said:

February 2013 was 9th Warmest on Record

Recently released analysis by NOAA scientists at the National Climatic Data Center reveals that the February 2013 global average temperature of 54.93°F (12.67°C) was the 9th warmest year on record (dating back to 1880). This image, using data from NCDC’s Global Historical Climatology Network shows areas of warmer (red) and cooler (blue) than normal temperatures. Most areas of the world experienced higher-than-average annual temperatures, including eastern Europe, western Russia, the Middle East, much of Canada, and southern Greenland. Meanwhile, northern and western Alaska, far northwestern Canada, a large swath of the contiguous United States, western Europe, northwestern Africa, Siberia, Mongolia, and most of the eastern Pacific Ocean were notably cooler than average. In addition, the Antarctic sea ice extent reached its annual minimum extent on February 20th at 1.42 million square miles, marking the second largest annual minimum extent on record.Of itself it would appear that there is no real connection to the rebirth of Lake Erie as an attraction.  Except that in November 2012, NOAA released a satellite photo of the Lake.  And what was shocking was the sight of a massive algae bloom covering nearly all of the western end of the lake.  It was a very late season bloom and snow was covering the ground at the same time.

 In October 2011, the NASA Earth Observatory reported: 

Lake Erie has been invaded by zebra- and quagga mussels, carried into the lake in the ballast of ships. The mussels are bottom feeders, and they do a good job cleaning the water. They remove so many particles that Lake Erie is very clear in the spring and early summer. But zebra and quagga mussels don’t like microcystis. “They selectively feed on other phytoplankton species, removing competitors so microcystis can thrive,” says Mouw. As the mussels digest, they release phosphate and ammonia into the water, and these nutrients give microcystis an additional boost. When microcystis blooms develop, they create a green scum on the surface of the water that is visible from space.

Though not directly toxic to fish, the bloom isn’t good for marine life. After the algae dies, bacteria break it down. The decay process consumes oxygen, so the decay of a large bloom can leave “dead zones,” low oxygen areas where fish can’t survive. If ingested, the algae can cause flu-like symptoms in people and death in pets.

In its January 2013 issue Scientific American reported:

Although harmful algal blooms have been documented for more than a century, recently the number and frequency of cases have drastically increased.

According to research published in leading scientific journals, Lake Zurich is by no means alone. Cyanobacteria now threaten the ecological well-being of some of the world’s largest water bodies, including Lake Victoria in Africa, Lake Erie in the United States and Canada, Lake Taihu in China, the Baltic Sea in northern Europe, and the Caspian Sea in west Asia. They’ve also been found in Lake Kokotel in eastern Siberia, which is next to Lake Baikal, the world’s largest, deepest and most ancient freshwater lake. Baikal contains 20 percent of the world’s total unfrozen freshwater reserve.

Red Flags should go up.  Who would have thought that you would find an algae bloom on Lake Erie with snow on the surrounding shore?

Cold Weather Algae Bloom on Lake Erie Source:  Earthgauge.net

Cold Weather Algae Bloom on Lake Erie
Source: Earthgauge.net