NOAA Magazine || NOAA Home Page

NOAA OFFERS ELECTRONIC FIELD GUIDE TO
HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS IN GREAT LAKES

NOAA satellite image of an algal bloom in Sandusky Bay and along the south shore of western Lake Erie taken June 24,2005, at 12:08 p.m. EDT.June 28, 2005 A new Web site, created by the NOAA Center of Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health, serves as an electronic field guide to the types, locations and habits of harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes. (Click NOAA satellite image for larger view of an algal bloom in Sandusky Bay and along the south shore of western Lake Erie taken June 24,2005, at 12:08 p.m. EDT. Click here for high resolution version. Click here for high resolution image indicating algal bloom sites. Please credit “NOAA / University of Wisconsin-Madison.”)

"This is another way that NOAA can protect and monitor our water resources, while better understanding the effect of environmental factors on human health and well-being, and provide products that citizens can use," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "Armed with this information, residents and visitors can make better decisions this summer when they use the beaches for recreational purposes."

Algae are microscopic plant-like organisms that live in water. When certain conditions are present, such as high nutrient or light levels, these organisms can reproduce rapidly, producing what is called a bloom. A harmful algal bloom contains toxins, other noxious chemicals or pathogens, which can cause the death of nearby fish, foul coastlines and produce harmful conditions for marine life and humans.

NOAA satellite image of the Great Lakes taken June 21, 1995.The new site provides public access to screening data generated by the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (which houses CEGLHH) research on algae blooms and places these data in the context of international public health guidelines. The focus of this research project is to determine the factors controlling microcystin production and to develop methods for determining the location and extent of blooms from satellite imagery. A Frequently Asked Questions section provides information in easy-to-understand language. Suggestions are also offered on ways to keep individuals and their pets or livestock safe. (Click NOAA satellite image for larger view of the Great Lakes taken June 21, 1995. Please credit “NOAA.”)

"These data are primarily for our research work into the dynamics of algal blooms in the Great Lakes," said Stephen Brandt, director of the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and the Center for Human Health and the Great Lakes. "But we also thought that it would be helpful to make these data available to the public so they can make decisions."

The data come from a project that will be taking samples this summer from Bear Lake and Muskegon Lake on Michigan's west coast, Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron and western Lake Erie. Using satellite images, scientists can see a "probable bloom" and send a sampling team to that area.

The Center for the Great Lakes and Human Health uses a multi-disciplinary approach to understand and forecast coastal-related human health impacts for natural resource and public policy decision-making.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Great Lakes Harmful Algal Bloom Event Response

NOAA Center of Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

NOAA Real-time Satellite Images of Great Lakes Region

Media Contact:
Jana Goldman, NOAA Research, (301) 713-2483