Says Karl Haven, director of the Florida Sea Grant College Program:
Climate change is expected to result in increased temperatures of nearshore ocean water, and this could lead to increased growth of harmful microorganisms. These include algae that form noxious or toxic blooms, including red tides, and bacteria and other pathogens. This situation could have negative consequences in regard to human health and also Florida’s ocean-related economy.And there is no reason for anyone to feel smug about this problem, as it can strike anywhere, including the Great Lakes. Especially hard hit over the years has been Lake Erie which, up to this point has suffered largely due to phosphorous runoff. The compounding effect of climate change will undoubtedly aggravate the problem there.
Climate Progress reports on the spreading scourge, which has now claimed even Alaska:
Last summer, one of the largest toxic algal blooms in recorded history hit the West Coast, shutting down fisheries from California to Washington. Scientists were seeing cells of the toxic bloom as far south as Mexico, and as far north as Homer, Alaska. At the time, Vera Trainer, manager of the Marine Biotoxin Program at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, told ThinkProgress that the bloom was uniquely widespread, “more so than we’ve seen in the past.”
But scientists now are saying that, with climate change, toxic algal blooms like the one seen last summer might become more common along the Pacific coastline, impacting marine communities as far north as Alaska with much more consistency than in the past.
In a new study published in the journal Harmful Algae, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found the presence of domoic acid — the same toxic acid that shut down West Coast fisheries last summer — in marine mammals along the Alaskan coastline. This was a surprise, because Alaskan waters were previously thought to be too cold to encourage the growth of domic-producing algal blooms. [Emphasis added]
That’s because algae thrive in warmer waters, which both encourage growth in certain kinds of algae and discourage a mixing of ocean waters. Alaskan waters are some of the most rapidly warming waters in the world, having risen by three degrees Celsius in the past decade.Given our seemingly endless capacity for denial, scenes like this are sure to become more common and widespread very, very soon:
“The waters are warming, the sea ice is melting, and we are getting more light in those waters,” Lefebvre told the Washington Post. “Those conditions, without a doubt, are more favorable for algal growth. With that comes harmful algae.”