[USA] They’re the spoilers of summer fun, capable of rapid expansion that can quickly cover a lake while sickening humans or killing pets that enter the water.
Toxic algae blooms have become a widespread this summer, especially in areas that have seen relentless, which gives the tiny organisms a favorable environment in which they can grow. In all, more than 20 states have reported toxic algae blooms this summer, according to NPR.
These blooms have come from virtually every region of the country. More than 100 people were sickened at Utah Lake after the water turned green and forced officials to close the waterway in July. That lake supplies irrigation water for farmers downstream, so health experts were forced to run tests on the Jordan River and several canals to ensure the bloom didn’t contaminate the water with which local crops were being sprayed.
The culprit is blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, according to the New York Times. When the right weather conditions – abundant sunshine and warm temperatures – and a good supply of nitrogen and phosphorus meet calm, cloudy water, the stage is set for a rapid algae bloom that can close an entire lake, the report added. And because record heat is outnumbering record cold by a 4-to-1 margin in 2016, there’s no shortage of suitable weather conditions for algae blooms in the United States.
In Oregon, a series of blooms kept visitors away from the continent’s deepest river gorge at Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, according to KATU.com. One of the blooms left the foul-smelling algae in a 10-mile stretch of a waterway that’s upstream from Hells Canyon Dam, the report added.
“It’s one of the worst years,” Lance Holloway, a surface water manager with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, told KATU.com. “I’ve never seen it like that.”
Experts have even found algae blooms in mountain lakes and streams, NPR reported, which has surprised experts. The rising number of blooms, as well as the increasing toxicity of the algae, suggests climate change is making the situation worse, algae expert Bev Anderson told NPR.
“We’re getting higher temperatures than we’ve seen ever in the past,” Anderson told NPR. “California had an unprecedented drought for the last five years which [has left] the water levels very low in a lot of areas.”
As drought continues to drain these lakes, Anderson added, it becomes easier for the sun to warm them to favorable temperatures for the algae, and the process accelerates.
Photo: Boats docked at Central Marine in Stuart, Fla., are surrounded by blue green algae, Wednesday, June 29, 2016. ( Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post via AP)
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