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Satellite monitoring of harmful algal blooms in the Western Basin of Lake Erie: A 20-year time-series

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Abstract

Blooms of harmful cyanobacteria (cyanoHABs) have occurred on an annual basis in western Lake Erie for more than a decade. Previously, we developed and validated an algorithm to map the extent of the submerged and surface scum components of cyanoHABs using MODIS ocean-color satellite data. The algorithm maps submerged cyanoHABs by identifying high chlorophyll concentrations (>18 mg/m3) combined with water temperature >20 °C, while cyanoHABs surface scums are mapped using near-infrared reflectance values. Here, we adapted this algorithm for the SeaWiFS sensor to map the annual areal extents of cyanoHABs in the Western Basin of Lake Erie for the 20-year period from 1998 to 2017. The resulting classified maps were validated by comparison with historical in situ measurements, exhibiting good agreement (81% accuracy). Trends in the annual mean and maximum total submerged and surface scum extents demonstrated significant positive increases from 1998 to 2017. There was also an apparent 76% increase in year-to-year variability of mean annual extent between the 1998–2010 and 2011–2017 periods. The 1998–2017 time-series was also compared with several different river discharge nutrient loading metrics to assess the ability to predict annual cyanoHAB extents. The prediction models displayed significant relationships between spring discharge and cyanoHAB area; however, substantial variance remained unexplained due in part to the presence of very large blooms occurring in 2013 and 2015. This new multi-sensor time-series and associated statistics extend the current understanding of the extent, location, duration, and temporal patterns of cyanoHABs in western Lake Erie.

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Sayers, M. J., Grimm, A. G., Shuchman, R. A., Bosse, K. R., Fahnenstiel, G. L., Ruberg, S. A., & Leshkevich, G. A. (2019). Satellite monitoring of harmful algal blooms in the Western Basin of Lake Erie: A 20-year time-series. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 45(3), 508–521. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jglr.2019.01.005

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