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NASA releasing new images of blue-green algae covering 45% of Lake Okeechobee

NASA Lake O July 3 from Landsat 8
Posted at 6:03 PM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 18:03:25-04

LAKE OKEECHOBEE, Fla — Lake Okeechobee is again full of blue-green algae this summer, fueled by warm summer temperatures and abundant nutrients, the algae covers 45% of the lake according to Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The coverage is comparable to the level seen in July 2021 and 2020, but not as extreme as in 2018, when cyanobacteria blooms cover about 90% of the lake.

This map was released by NASA’s Cyanobacteria Assessment Network on Thursday showing cyanobacteria concentrations on Lake Okeechobee on July 13. You can see most heavy concentrations are on the western side of the lake, along Glades and Hendry Counties.

lake o nasa 45% jul 16

NASA also released this image taken from the Landsat 8 satellite on July 3. You can see the green streaks of the algae bloom along the western shore near Glades county.

NASA Lake O July 3 from Landsat 8

The Florida DEP warned citizens earlier this month saying quote, “Different types of blue-green algal bloom species can look different and have different impacts. However, regardless of species, many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins that can make you or your pets sick if swallowed or possibly cause skin and/or eye irritation due to contact. We advise staying out of water where algae is visibly present as specks or mats or where water is discolored pea-green, blue-green or brownish-red.”

Blue-green algae is formally called cyanobacteria, which is a floating, plantlike organism. These single-celled organisms are among the oldest life forms on Earth, and they rely on photosynthesis to turn sunlight into food. Cyanobacteria can grow swiftly when nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen are abundant in still water. They also can produce a toxin known as microcystin that can sicken people and animals, contaminate drinking water, and force closures of boating and swimming sites.