Warming climate produces more toxic algae

Bluegreen algae in Lake Winnebago near Oshkosh, WI. (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/flickr)
Jenna Ladd| August 31, 2017

There has been an increase in harmful algal blooms worldwide and in Iowa in recent years, and climate change is adding to the problem.

A recent analysis from Climate Central points out that warmer waters make conditions favorable for toxic algae to grow faster than other beneficial varieties. Toxic algae then accumulates, making the surface of bodies of water appear darker in color. This creates a positive feedback loop. The report explains, “water made darker by the presence of the blooms absorbs more sunlight, warming even more, and enhancing the conditions for more blooms.”

Heavy precipitation is another by-product of a changing climate and is becoming increasingly common in the U.S. and Iowa, specifically. Increased rainfall means that more agricultural fertilizers, which include nitrate and phosphorus, are washed off the land and into waterways. These nutrients feed algae and encourage its growth.

Ingesting harmful varieties of algae in water or on contaminated fish can cause gastrointestinal problems, respiratory symptoms, and skin irritation.

(Climate Central)


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