Workshop Improves Communication and Preparedness for Harmful Algal Blooms in the Great Lakes
JAN. 23, 2023 — NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration and the University of New Hampshire’s Coastal Response Research Center hosted a virtual workshop on harmful algal blooms on Jan. 17-18. The primary focus of the workshop was communication, preparedness, and response — across the federal government, state agencies, and other key partners — for harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes region.
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) result from rapid growth of algae or cyanobacteria that, in some situations, can cause harm to people, animals, and the local ecology. HAB events have increased in frequency and severity over the last couple of decades. With climate change and an increase in Great Lake water temperatures and inland flooding events (events that create runoff that may contribute to or even trigger these events), HABs will continue to be a seasonal nuisance, and sometimes a real threat to lake ecology and public safety. This is of even greater importance when one realizes that the Great Lakes contain nine-tenths of the U.S. surface fresh water and provide the primary drinking water source for 40 million people in both the U.S. and Canada.
Not all HAB events are the same, nor do they all create the same risks, resulting in real challenges in communicating hazard and risk to the public during such events. The workshop provided presentations and focused discussion to enhance regional preparedness with the goal of better understanding the roles and responsibilities of different response agencies, the science and tools that help drive decision-making, the importance of inter-agency coordination, and most importantly — effective risk communication.
Staff from OR&R’s Emergency Response Division, NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, as well as from Ohio Sea Grant and the Great Lakes NOAA Regional Collaboration Team, were significant partners in the success of this workshop.