Temperatures in the Great Lake reached a record breaking 80F – almost as high as bathwater – amid fears of blooming poisonous algae
- The increase comes during a heat wave along the east and U.S. borders with Canada, which has produced algal blooms that are harmful to aquatic animals
- Lake Erie, the southernmost and shallowest of the five lakes, was by far the warmest; on July 10, the average was 79.52F – 41F above the normal
- Temperatures are ‘abnormally high compared to recent years,’ Andrea Vander Woude, manager of the Great Lakes CoastWatch program
- Flowering cyanobacteria can be toxic to humans and fish
The Great Lakes have reached a record-breaking 80F for this time of year, almost as hot as bath water.
The increase comes during a heat wave along the east and the U.S. border with Canada, which has produced algal blooms that are harmful to aquatic animals.
Lake Erie, the southernmost and shallowest of the five lakes, was by far the warmest; on July 10, the average was 79.52F – 41F above normal and the aggregate hottest ever for that time of year.
It means that Erie is warmer than the Pacific Ocean, loved by surfers in California and only marginally cooler than the sea water in Florida.
Lake Ontario clocked temperatures of 77.18F on July 10, which is about 42.8F higher than normal and also a record for every month of the year.
Lake Erie, the southernmost and shallowest of the five lakes, was by far the warmest; on July 10, the average was 79.52F – 41F above normal and the aggregate hottest ever for that time of year
Aerial view of Port Huron on Lake Huron with its pink sand beach and turquoise blue water
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF ALGAE FLOWERS?
Technically called cyanobacteria, the old class of organisms that create the flowers, is present almost everywhere where water is found, but thrives in warm, silent bodies like lakes and ponds.
They also create a unique class of toxins, the impact of which on humans is only partially understood.
Long doses associated with animal deaths can cause high doses of the toxins in humans to damage the liver and affect the nervous system.
The largest outbreaks have affected hundreds by flowers in reservoirs and lakes, and officials in some areas are now routinely closing water used for recreation and alerting when flowers bloom.
But less is known about exposure at lower doses, especially in the long term.
Small studies have linked exposure to liver cancer – one toxin has been classified as a carcinogen and others have pointed to possible links to neurodegenerative diseases.
Lake Huron seared at 72.14F on July 9, also 42.8F above its norm and the hottest temperature ever in July.
To the west, Lake Michigan was at 75.02F on July 8, it was also around 43F above what scientists would consider normal.
Lake Superior was the only one that didn’t cross the 70F threshold, as it was at the highest of the five.
Temperatures are “abnormally high compared to recent years,” Andrea Vander Woude, manager of the Great Lakes CoastWatch program.
‘It was really cold last year and there was a lot of rain. There hasn’t been much rain this year and it’s been persistently hot, “she said The Washington Post.
Water temperatures rose last week before a cold front over the weekend triggered freezing storms that helped cool the lakes.
But temperatures usually peak in August, and Vander Woude told the paper she expects it to rise significantly higher: “We haven’t even reached the tip of that curve that usually occurs later [in the summer]. ‘
She added that NOAA planes had noticed blue-green algae or cyanobacteria on Lake Erie that had previously affected the water supply in Toledo.
“This is the second earliest we’ve seen [the algae] in our records since 2002, ”Richard Stumpf, an oceanographer at NOAA, told the Post in an email. “The earliest was in late June 2018.”
The cyanobacteria can produce a liver toxin called microcystin, which is harmful to humans and animals.
The degree of toxicity at any one time is not related to the size of the bloom, as toxins in a larger mass may be less concentrated than in a smaller one.
The Chicago skyline and waterfront of the Chicago River, Illinois, which flows from Lake Michigan
NOAA and other U.S. and Canadian agencies have set a goal to reduce Lake Erie’s bloom to a 3 on the index, which was last seen in 2012.
In addition to the algae, Stumpf said that fish do not do well in too warm water because they swim to the cooler parts of the lake, decreasing the oxygen content in those areas.
Climate Central, a non-profit science communications organization, noted that rising temperatures were part of a trend.
Last year it wrote, “Every large lake has warmed at least 1.5 F since 1995 (when data for all lakes became available), led by Lake Ontario at 2.2 F.”