Avoiding the Perfect Toxic Algae Storm in the St Lucie River/IRL

LC80150412016264LGN00 - Crop 2.jpg
Lake Okeechobee Landsat 8 satellite image shows as clear lake, 9/22/16.

http://www.thurlowpa.com/LakeOImagery/Landsat%2030m%20Resolution/index.html#LE70150412016256EDC01%2520-%2520Crop.

Click to see recent satellite images of Lake Okeechobee and algae-full images from this summer: http://www.thurlowpa.com/LakeOImagery/ (Compiled by Todd Thurlow)

 

I am lucky to know a lot of people who are smarter than me. And one of them is my brother. Ever since we were kids Todd read meteorological books or the Guinness Book of World Records. He likes data.  Today, over forty years later, he is helping me apply his knowledge of data to the St Luce River/Indian River Lagoon.

If you are a regular blog reader, you know that this past summer Todd helped publicly identify what became a 240 square mile algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee that was being released into the C-44 causing our river to become toxic. Today, I will share his ideas on avoiding the perfect toxic algae storm.

Here is a photo of Todd and I when we were young in the 70s, when the river was in better shape and we were having fun fishing on Ronnie Nelson’s dock on Hutchinson Island.001 (485).jpg

Here is a photo of Todd and me today. As you can see we have changed a lot and the river has changed too…

IMG_3163 - Version 2.JPG

So recently, this Friday when the Army Corp increased releases to the St Lucie Estuary I wrote Todd. (Press release: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Media/News-Releases/Article/952594/lake-okeechobee-flows-to-increase/)
I think the exchange is insightful so I am going to share:

Jacqui: “Todd, how does the lake look? ”

Todd: “Clear. I have been posting every 8 days.

After studying these satellite aerials for a while, I can tell that the blooms are definitely related to sunlight and wind..Our scientists friends would sarcastically say, “no kidding?!”

High pressure system -> a lot of sunlight + no wind = bloom. Clouds + wind = less algae.

The fresh water, phosphorus and nitrogen are always in the lake, but not necessarily the river. Luckily, cloudless days are also the perfect time to spot the algae by satellite.

Maybe the ACOE  should add to their discharge schedule that they will hold back the releases when it is forecast to be calm and sunny for several days to prevent the risk of and bloom in the estuaries? Then they can pulse the releases again when the clouds and wind pick up and the algae blows away in the lake – kind of like mother nature.

Jacqui: “Always better if we go with Mother Nature so we don’t end up with such ecological disasters…”
Todd: ” I think Gary Goforth, Mark Perry and others would tell us that the disaster timeline sets up like this:

– A low pressure weather system moves into Florida and dumps a bunch of rain, local runoff begins and the lake starts to rise
– They keep S-308 at Mayaca an other lakeside gates closed and open S-80 because the priority is always to transport the “local” runnoff first and not add to flooding problems by sending lake water through the coastal canals
– The local basins start to drain out and a high pressure weather system moves in. It gets sunny, hot, and the wind dies down to zero.
– With a lot of sun and no wind, the lake starts to bloom. With local runoff subsiding, the tides help flush all to local runoff out to sea but not completely.
– Just when conditions in the lake are “the perfect storm”, the estuaries would otherwise be recovering from the local runoff, the lake is in full bloom and rising, S-308 is now opened to drop the lake at the worst time. All the algae that just exploded in the lake is transported down C-44 through S-80 and into to estuaries. Salinity in the estuaries stays low instead of naturally recovering. With the sunny conditions and unnatural discharges, the estuaries explode with algae blooms.

If they would just delay opening S-308 for just a few days, maybe a week, allowing clouds and wind to return, could the perfect storm be avoided?”

T3

You can access more of Todd’s shared data here under FIRM FAVORITES: http://www.thurlowpa.com
__________________________________

Thank you Todd! Hope the ACOE thinks on this. We don’t want to get in the Guinness Book of World Records 2016 for the estuary with the most toxic algae blooms!

4 thoughts on “Avoiding the Perfect Toxic Algae Storm in the St Lucie River/IRL

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