The Hothouse Breeds More Toxic Waters — Lake Erie ‘Painted Green’ By Enormous Algae Bloom

Enormous blooms of algae painting the waters green, sickly blue, or blood-red. Algae producing toxins making water unsafe to drink or swim in. Making fish, shellfish and crabs unsafe to eat. Generating life-snuffing dead zones of low oxygen and, potentially, producing deadly hydrogen sulfide gas ranging our lakes, seas, and oceans.

This is what happens when the world is forced to warm, when run-off due to climate change induced extreme rainfall events increases, when the land that run-off comes from is loaded with fossil fuel based fertilizers, and when fossil fuel burning itself generates a constant fall-out of nitrogen from the skies. In ancient hothouse events, similar forces generated mass extinctions in the world’s waters. And through fossil fuel burning we’re setting off a related hothouse type stress to the life-giving liquid we all rely upon. A stress that is yet worsened due to the efficiency with which we are able to load the air, land, and seas with environmental toxins that aid in the generation of algae blooms of an intensity nature alone would have never kicked off.

Toxic algae blooms become common for western Lake Eerie

(In a human-warmed world, toxic algae blooms that threaten Toledo, Cleveland and Akron water supplies are becoming all too common. Algae biomass graphic for the 2013 and 2014 Lake Erie algae blooms provided by NOAA.)

Lake Erie in the Firing Line

In the US, one of the most vulnerable bodies of fresh water to this kind of toxic algae growth is Lake Erie. Over recent decades as the local climate changed, the water warmed. Weather patterns resulted in increased heavy rainfall events. Increased farm industry and fertilizer use meant that much of the run-off was heavily laden with algae food. And the atmosphere itself became loaded up with nitrogen. In addition, the lake is more vulnerable to a life-snuffing stratified state in which the top and bottom layers fail to mix. A final blow came from an invasive species of mollusk — the zebra mussel — which changed the food web in such a way that it favored the growth of the toxic algae we see today. All these factors combined to make the surface waters more and more vulnerable to large, toxic algae blooms and the follow-on formation of dead zones.

Since the mid 1960s, late summer algae blooms have been a regular occurrence on the lake. But more and more now, the blooms are prolific enough to threaten city water draws.

In 2011, Lake Eerie suffered its worst algae bloom on record. At that time, fully 20 percent of the lake was covered in the toxic stuff. Then, both Ohio and Canadian cities along the lake had to shut off water intakes to prevent toxins entering the water system. During 2014 the blooms had again threatened water supplies forcing Toledo to shut its valves. Now, a new algae bloom is threatening Cleveland, Toledo and Canadian water supplies. And, according to NOAA officials, the current bloom may be nearly as intense and widespread as the 2011 event. NOAA notes:

The bloom will be expected to measure 8.7 on the severity index with a range from 8.1 to potentially as high as 9.5. This is more severe than the last year’s 6.5, and may equal or exceed 2013, which had the second worse bloom in this century. The severity index runs from a high of 10, which corresponds to the 2011 bloom, the worst ever observed, to zero.

Toxic Algae Visible From Satellite

As of yesterday, the widespread bloom of toxic algae was plainly visible in the LANCE MODIS satellite shot:

Lake Eerie Algae Bloom

(A large and growing toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie visible from satellite on August 5. It’s a bloom that may eventually prove to be the largest such event on record for the Lake. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

A huge swath of the western end of the lake was covered with the stuff as of August 5, 2015. A clearly visible green blob blanketing much of Erie’s western surface. Researchers out on boats monitoring this year’s outbreak described the lake as being painted in a thick sheen of goop.

According to NASA, the particular kind of algae that now appears annually in Lake Eerie is called Microcystis. It produces a toxin that is highly dangerous to humans. If consumed, Microcystis may cause numbness, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, lead to liver damage and even result in death. One part per billion in water is all it takes to hit unsafe levels. And boiling toxin-laced water is no remedy — resulting in further concentration of the dangerous stuff.

During August of 2014, unsafe levels were reached at Toledo intakes causing water officials to shut down the lake water supply there. This year, officials are closely monitoring the water supply ready to hit the off switch if the water again hits a dangerous threshold.

Sadly, Lake Erie isn’t the only place on Earth suffering the impacts of hothouse-spurred toxic algae blooms. In the Pacific Ocean, a massive blob of hot water is hosting a red tide of record depth and extent. That particular bloom risks the expansion of an already large dead zone, the proliferation of anoxic and hypoxic waters, and the potential for bottom water production of toxic hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria. In the North Atlantic, swirls of algae blooms are generating mobile dead zones even as the far North Atlantic is witnessing a massive blue-green algae bloom (more on these dangerous human warming related events in upcoming posts).


NOAA Predicts Severe Algae Bloom

Earth Observatory: Lake Eerie Algae Bloom

Eerie’s Enormous Algae Bloom is Back


Hot Pacific Ocean Runs Bloody

Underwater Cyclones of Death

Hat Tip to Andy in San Diego

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Leave a comment


  1. Jeff

     /  August 6, 2015

    Several people have already died this summer from toxic algae in Florida’s coastal waters.

    • Flesh eating bacteria events?

      • Jeff

         /  August 6, 2015

        Robert, yes. It’s Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium, not algae, though we do get occasional “red tides” of a certain algae that can cause breathing problems and allergic reactions. Florida’s death toll from Vibrio vulnificus this year is at seven.

  2. Suzanne

     /  August 6, 2015

    I have been reading your fine blog for awhile, and though I am not someone who write comments, I felt the need to sign up so I could say “thank you” for all your hard work.
    I came across this video by a young Millennial named “PrinceEa”….I find it poignant, and truly sad….It is called “Sorry”. I can only hope this young man’s voice is heard by many, in the same way your voice is heard through your informative blog.

    Thank you again from a usually silent admirer.

    • Very, very well said, Prince Ea.

      Suzanne, thanks so much for dropping in and sharing your thoughts and this video with us. For my own part, there’s no giving up. It’s only forward from here.

      Please feel free to join us and share what you’ve found at any time.


  3. Bruce

     /  August 6, 2015

    Robert, I tried to send this to you the other day (if you don’t block me) but I think I messed up the link anyway! Oh well, there is a good video here.

    b Date: Thu, 6 Aug 2015 17:24:03 +0000 To:

    • Hello Bruce. Sorry to say I must have missed your comment or otherwise I would have most certainly sent it through.

      RE extreme weather. We tend to look at climate as one fixed state and immediately switching to another fixed state. This is an overly simplistic way of looking at things.

      It helps if you break climate change down into phases. In the current phase, characterized by increasing polar amplification, see a ramping number of extreme weather events.

      In phase 2 climate change, characterized mostly by glacial collapse, we see an amazing storm generating potential.

      And in phase 3 climate change, in which we have transitioned mostly to a hothouse state, we see climates that are better described by the article you’ve posted. This is the end state that we’re heading toward under continued fossil fuel burning. But we have to pass through phase 1 and phase 2 to get there. And phase 2 will last as long are the ice sheets continue to go down — which basically means centuries of severe storms.

      The simplistic view is, therefore, not taking into account the various steps in this transition process and looking at the end state as something we smoothly progress toward. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  4. Timely post, Robert ,Andy, and CB.

    I add some aerosol N input to the toxic ‘bloomsday’ scenario.

    Comparisons of aerosol nitrogen isotopic composition at two polluted coastal sites


    Atmospheric fixed-nitrogen deposition can contribute to eutrophication in coastal and estuarine waters. Stable nitrogen isotope data can provide important information regarding the sources and processing of atmospheric fixed-nitrogen species and is thus important in controlling eutrophication.

    • Acidifying and Eutrophying Pollutants

      Acidifying and eutrophying pollutants originate primarily from anthropogenic emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ammonia (NH3 ). Most of SO2 and NOx is emitted to the atmosphere under the combustion of fossil fuel in electricity generating power stations, industrial plants, residential heating, commercial and service sectors. Road transport, shipping and aircraft are significant sources of NOx emissions. NH3 emissions are related to agricultural activities such as storage of manure, soil fertilising, animal husbandry, etc.

      … ‘Deposition of nitrogen-containing compounds also contributes to the eutrophication (“excess nutrient enrichment”) of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Their eutrophying effect is associated with increased leaching of nitrogen to ground water, streams and lakes and changes in the forest ecosystems leading to vegetation changes favouring nitrogen-tolerant species.’

    • Union of Concerned Scientists
      2 Brattle Square, Cambridge MA 02138-3780
      © Union of Concerned Scientists

      Dirty cars, dirty air

      In 2013, transportation contributed more than half of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and almost a quarter of the hydrocarbons emitted into our air.

    • Great additions here, DT. Thanks so much for sending them on.

      I think the underlying issue here is that impacts from fossil fuel burning are severly toxic and wide ranging. CO2 upsets the planetary energy balance, to a lesser degree, the Nitrogen oxides do the same even as they harm trees and enhance eutrophication. You add in black carbon, mercury toxins, and a hundred other volatile chemicals and then you only begin to get half the full picture. It’s a very broad overall impact. One that makes it very easy to label any fossil fuel burning a highly toxic endeavor.

    • And we have 12 foot waves in the East Siberian Sea now…

    • Gale force winds, 12 foot seas.

    • 40 foot seas just east of Taiwan… They’re going to get slammed over the next 24 hours.

  5. climatehawk1

     /  August 6, 2015

    While the bloom is eerie, the lake is Erie.

    • Charles Koch gets some climate science right, but economics wrong: Guardian

      In the U.S., half a billion dollars gets you a gentler climate plan

      • Koch won’t get any climate science right until he withdraws his fossil fuel investments. The man is mental. Basically rendered insane by the prospect of those ephemeral future fossil fuel profits. If money didn’t matter to him, if monopolization and exploitation and getting rich off it all wasn’t the whole center of his existence, then climate change would be easy for a man of his faculties. But like so many of his fellows, he’s an awful waste of talent. A slave to peddling his particular lie for profit.

  6. Jack Arnold

     /  August 6, 2015

    Thanks for your articles robert. I appreciate the frequency and the comprehensiveness of them all, keeping us all up to date with what is going on.

    • “I appreciate the frequency and the comprehensiveness of them” — Yes indeed.
      He sure does.

  7. I wonder what it will take to convince homeowners that it may be in their best interest to prioritize healthy watersheds over their lawns. A glass of green water, maybe? On that note, I wonder how often you can apply the same logic to large green-grass campuses and to golf courses.

    • Oh no. Not sure what’s going on. If this doesn’t work, I’ll stop cluttering the thread.. Sorry all.

      • That’s the one I wanted to post!

      • Robert, please feel free to delete the extraneous comments. Thanks!

      • rustj2015

         /  August 6, 2015

        Thank you all so very much!

      • Amazing! So we find another good rebel of the Goddess to stand beside us in our most sacred struggle to defend her.

      • Ya, “Rock me Goddess in the gentle arms of Eden.” Such a soothing image, Robert. I sometimes hum it to myself when I need to quiet my mind..

      • Maria, just wanted to add my thanks as well. I’d thought songs of this kind had been lost to us. Seems I just didn’t know where to look.

      • You’re most welcome Robert and all. It was passed on to me from someone who is passionate about saving our “only home, the only sacred we have ever known.” When I lived in Boston we loved Dave and Tracy.

  8. Didn’t see this posted yet: Pacific Coast toxic algae bloom stretching from So Cal to Alaska, apparently the largest ever for that region.

  9. You have an interesting blog on global warming. Thanks for the posts. Too bad only about half of Americans believe in it…

  10. Colorado Bob

     /  August 6, 2015

    All Signs Indicate a New Monster El Niño Is Coming

    (Some good graphics with this , comparing 1997 to 2015)

    • We beat this by one and one half years, my friend. We ignore the warnings of the worl at our own great peril and I am getting very tired of a human civilization that is run by a pack of small minded, lack hearted, short sighted, nature defiling, self centered fools.

  11. Colorado Bob

     /  August 6, 2015

    Massive Die Off Of Ocean Animals Turning Pacific Ocean Into Desert, Go See Them Now Before They’re Extinct

    Sea animals are dying off in massive numbers along the Pacific Coastline from Baja, Mexico all the way to Alaska, and there may be nothing anyone can do about it.

    A combination of man-made and natural causes are killing off bottlenose dolphins, sardines, sea birds, plankton, krill, salmon, sea lions, starfish, and brown pelicans in record numbers.

    What’s worse, the planet may be forced to do without them, as their absence may be the new normal.

    Read more at Link

  12. Colorado Bob

     /  August 6, 2015

    Fires in South Central Africa –

    12:00 UTC


  13. Reblogged this on GarryRogers Nature Conservation and Science Fiction (#EcoSciFi) and commented:
    My ponds are at record low levels this year. This, coupled with drought and heat leaves them susceptible to a lethal algae bloom. The smallest pond died once a few years ago, and now has no fish. The largest pond is filling with algae and coming dangerously close to full cover. Needs rain now.

  14. Colorado Bob

     /  August 6, 2015

    Toxin warning extended downstream on Klamath River

    A health advisory issued July 28 for Upper Klamath and Agency lakes is being extended down the Klamath River to the California state line, according to a news release.

    The advisory, issued by the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division, now includes Upper Klamath and Agency lakes, the Link River downstream to Lake Ewauna, and the Klamath River downstream to the California border, including the Keno area and J.C. Boyle Reservoir, according to the release.

    The original advisory was issued after monitoring by the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Reclamation and PacifiCorp confirmed the presence of blue-green algae toxins in the water bodies. These toxins, called cyanotoxins, are present at concentrations in the water that can be harmful to humans and animals.


  15. Colorado Bob

     /  August 7, 2015

    Record-breaking polar bear spurs climate change concerns

    Thursday, August 6, 2015, 11:59 AM – A hungry and skinny polar bear in Norway is raising concerns about climate change after it broke the record for the longest underwater dive with a remarkable time of three minutes and 10 seconds.

    The bear smashed a previous record of 72 seconds. It swam 45 to 50 metres without coming up for air in an effort to stalk three bearded seals. The event was recently published in the journal Polar Biology, highlighting the desperate measures polar bears must take to survive and the link between climate change and melting sea ice.

    These pictures will make you sick

  16. Leland Palmer

     /  August 7, 2015

    Japan seems to also have an algae bloom problem-

    This is an apparent algae bloom off the east coast of Hokkaido, Japan. The above image is from NASA Worldview, with the chlorophyll A data product turned on. It is clearly visible with the chlorophyll A data product turned on, but still somewhat visible when it is turned off.

    This image is from July 20, 2015. The chlorophyll A data product is severely affected by cloud cover, so the best way to use it to look for algae blooms is to use the time controls on the bottom of the page to look at past data. What we’re looking for are red or yellow areas, when they are not obscured by cloud cover. As a final check, turn off the chlorophyll A data product by clicking the little eye symbol to the left of the chlorophyll A data product in the layers menu. The blooms are slightly visible visually – you might need to adjust the angle of your computer screen to see them. The visible images seem to confirm the chlorophyll A data product results.

    Doing this for Japan shows a persistent apparent algae bloom off the east coast of Hokkaido, but smaller apparent persistent blooms off the coast of major cities and in between the various islands, consistent with eutrophication from runoff.

    The algae bloom off the east coast of Hokkaido, though, extends hundreds of kilometers out into the Pacific. Another explanation may be needed for that bloom, other than eutrophication from nitrogen and phosphate enriched runoff.

  17. Pentagon prepares for century of climate emergencies, oil wars: via @MiddleEastEye

  18. Bruce

     /  August 7, 2015

    Record High Methane Levels:

    • Yep.

      Please don’t copy/paste emails into comments. Please don’t repost old comments again and again, especially in the body of new comments. This is a form of spam. I’ve edited accordingly.


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