Great Lakes Region

Great Lakes Harmful Algal Blooms 

NOAA’s team of scientists at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) and the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR) collaborate to research and predict the relationship between water quality degradation and ecosystem health as well as understand the drivers of harmful algal bloom growth and proliferation in the Great Lakes. The collaboration consists of utilizing satellite imagery, observing systems and a comprehensive monitoring program in Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay- Lake Huron to develop predictive tools for decision-making related to harmful algal bloom movement and extent/intensity.



Algal bloom in Lake Erie, Kelley’s Island. October 16, 2011 (Credit: T. Joyce, NOAA GLERL).

What is a Harmful Algal Bloom? 

Harmful algal blooms typically refer to a specific type of algae—blue-green algae– that is capable of producing a toxin.  Not all blooms are harmful, but when the bloom produces a toxin it is referred to as a harmful algal bloom. HABs can lead to the death of fish important to the ecosystem of the Great Lakes, lead to scum or beach fouling along coastlines, and could impact humans and animals. For more information on HABs and how they can affect your health, the Harmful Algal Blooms factsheet, maintained by GLERL, is a great resource to refer to.

Lake Erie Monitoring Stations 

Four real-time monitoring stations (see below) in the Western Lake Erie basin continuously measure parameters contributing to algal bloom growth, such as phosphorus levels and water temperature. To view real-time data collected at these monitoring stations on phosphorus levels, water temperature, air temperature, turbidity, etc. click here. These data are valuable to assess the role that land use and nutrient reduction strategies are having on the growth and proliferation of harmful algae in the lake. In addition, continuous monitoring allows for more accurate validation and calibration of HAB forecasting tools.

Lake Erie Monitoring Stations, obtained from NOAA-GLERL.

HAB Tracker 

The HAB Tracker, generated by GLERL and CILER, combines remote sensing, monitoring and modeling to produce 5-day forecasts on a 3-dimensional scale of bloom transport and contamination. The HAB Tracker estimates the distribution and intensity of a bloom through a particle transport model, which predicts where the bloom will travel and how intense it is expected to be. The daily predictions provide water intake managers, state environmental managers and the boating community with important information used for decision-making.

Lake Erie HABs Bulletin and Recent Concerns 

NOAA’s cross-line office collaboration between the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NOS) and GLERL maintain a weekly HABs bulletin that provides updated nowcast on algal bloom location in Lake Erie and where the bloom will be moving 3 days in the future. Due to heavy rains and high runoff in June in the Western Lake Erie basin, NOAA and its research partners predicted that the 2015 western Lake Erie harmful algal bloom season will be among the most severe in recent years. See the HABs bulletin for an update on these blooms.



GLERL’s HABs website:

GLERL’s Weekly Algal Toxin Monitoring Data:

HAB Tracker:



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