Researchers from different organizations have linked the algae-bloom crisis in the Great Lakes to climate change. Groups like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, and a handful of university scientists have all posited that climate change could be responsible.
According to the researchers, climate change has caused an increase in rainfall over the last few decades. Just this year, rainfall in the Midwest has increased by 37 percent since the 1950s. That number is expected to rise over the next 85 years as heavy rainfall event could be 4-5 times more common by 2100 under current emissions levels, Climate Central reported.
The rapid increase of algae growth is caused by an overload of phosphorus that gets washed into the lakes by heavy rainfall. The phosphorus comes from commercial fertilizer used by nearby farms and water-treatment centers, The Guardian reported. According to the Ohio government, Lake Erie received 44 percent of the total amount of phosphorus received by all five Great Lakes.
“It’s a combo of more rainfall; that climate change predicted to cause more severe rain events,” said Timothy Davis at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. “And more rainfall means more nutrients and higher nutrients mean more toxicity.”
As Davis indicated, there is a domino effect of climate change causing more rain, which causes more toxic runoff to contaminate nearby watersheds, and it’s expected to get worse.
According to the most recent National Climate Assessment, these factors are expected to increase the risk of waterborne illnesses in the near future.