“This is a wake up call. Climate change has increased the frequency, intensity, and duration of harmful algal blooms, and we’re not getting a pass just because it’s winter.”
Climate change has warmed our planet by 1.01 degree Celsius since 1880. Glaciers are shrinking, sea levels are rising, snowpack is melting earlier in the season, and megadroughts are only getting worse.
Our winters have warmed too. In fact, scientists say our coldest season is warming faster than our hottest season. While people who hate the cold may cheer for warmer temperatures in the traditionally colder months, this seasonal warming is sounding alarm bells about the accelerating effects of climate change on our planet.
How are our winters changing?
While it may be nice to bask in the warmth of a 60 degree sunny day in January, these balmy days are representative of an overall pattern of higher temperatures in winter. Not only that, but precipitation patterns are changing. We no longer can count on enjoying a “White Christmas”, as snowfall amounts are decreasing in many parts of the country and being replaced by rain. Snowfall is crucial for states that rely heavily on winter tourism and on snowmelt for their water supply.
The climate crisis is a water crisis.
Water bodies around the globe are shrinking and drying up, leading many to scramble for new water and food sources. In the U.S., Utah’s Great Salt Lake is shrinking at an alarming rate, jeopardizing marine life and migratory birds and raising concerns that the air will turn poisonous due to the potential for arsenic buried in the lake bed becoming airborne.
And as winters warm and ice melts earlier in the season, nutrient pollution that’s typically frozen within will thaw and run into nearby streams, rivers, and lakes, jeopardizing water quality. Recent research has shown that water quality in 40% of the contiguous United States is at risk due to thawing nutrient pollution, increasing the potential for more year round outbreaks of toxic algae and even larger aquatic dead zones.
As Eyal Harel, CEO of BlueGreen says, “This is a wake up call. Climate change has increased the frequency, intensity, and duration of harmful algal blooms, and we’re not getting a pass just because it’s winter.”
Not only can this be detrimental to the water body itself, but it also can have adverse effects on the health of humans, pets, and wildlife.
“We need to learn more about what goes on beneath the ice and, given our changing climate, we are really in a race against time to understand and mitigate the impacts.”
As Harel explains, “Less ice cover means sunlight can penetrate the water earlier in the year, jumpstarting the production of harmful algae. We need to learn more about what goes on beneath the ice and, given our changing climate, we are really in a race against time to understand and mitigate the impacts.”
Typically, large-scale algal blooms are not common in the colder months as the blooms thrive in warm waters. As weather patterns change, so must the strategies used to mitigate such outbreaks.
“Water managers can take preventive measures throughout fall and winter to stave off a resurgence of outbreaks in the spring,” said Dr. Gad Weiss, Scientific Director, BlueGreen. “Left untreated, blooms remediated in the summer and fall will return the next year with a vengeance. It’s important to treat and monitor conditions all year long.”
In order to protect our planet and stop the increase in toxic algal blooms, we need to take action.
At BlueGreen we are committed to tackling the climate crisis and protecting and healing water bodies. Our water scientists use satellites, artificial intelligence mapping, deep learning, and drones to monitor and track harmful algal blooms around the world. Our most precious natural resource – and our planet – are in peril. Let us all wake up and pay attention to the changing face of winter – and what’s at stake for life on Earth.