Algae Crashes the Party
While we enjoyed the unusually warm weather this past spring and winter, something was brewing in the water. Algae blooms are back, resurfacing earlier than usual in lakes and streams across the country from the Pacific Northwest to the Florida panhandle. Some of these blooms have become harmful, inciting warnings in Kansas, forcing lake closures in Washington and killing thousands of fish in Maryland. But as concerning as these early outbreaks may be, the fate of the 2012 summer algae season will likely ride on how hot the weather is.
Viewer Tip: While air and corresponding water temperatures often trigger algae blooms, several other factors determine how dominant these blooms may become:
- Nutrients – algae feed on nitrogen and phosphorus, so high concentrations of these nutrients often fuel algae explosions.
- Light – algae photosynthesize, so they need plenty of light to grow. Clear water that’s exposed to plenty of sunshine will create ideal conditions for algal growth.
- Calm Waters – stagnant water keeps nutrients from escaping, and it prevents the warmer water layers at the surface from mixing with the cooler ones below.
(Sources: Peninsula Daily News, “Anderson Lake remains closed after toxin test,” June 2, 2012, Accessed Online June 19, 2012, http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20120603/news/306039993/anderson-lake-remains-closed-after-toxin-test; The Pratt Tribune, “Algae warnings for Kansas Lakes,” June 2, 2012, Accessed Online June 19, 2012, http://www.pratttribune.com/news/x1916928421/Algae-warnings-for-Kansas-lakes; Timothy B. Wheeler, “Fish kills grow in algae-tainted waters,” The Baltimore Sun, May 23, 2012, Accessed Online June 19, 2012, http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/green/bs-gr-algae-fish-kill-20120523,0,5817762.story.)