Gulf of Mexico and Lake Okeechobee water temperatures are warm for this time of year, which would be expected during a La Niña winter-spring that’s brought little relief from the heat.
And those warm waters could lead to a myriad of problems, from blue-green algae blooms to feeding tropical storms and hurricanes that could lead to bloom conditions in the summer of 2023.
“If you look at three factors for blue-green algae, temperature is definitely important, and nutrients are another (factor),” said Mike Parsons, a Florida Gulf Coast University professor and researcher and member of the state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force.
“And how long has the water been sitting there? We’ve had warmer water (this year), so that’s a big deal. And how are nutrient conditions this year versus previous years?”
Even though Parsons doesn’t expect a major blue-green algal bloom this summer, a powerful tropical storm or hurricane could stir up nutrients in the Lake Okeechobee system and create a massive bloom in 2023.
Advocates, though, worry that the system already has those nutrients, that water in Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River could be ripe now.
“These blooms are occurring every single year now,” said Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani. “The blooms in the lake are pretty significant and frequently very toxic.”
Cassani said he found toxic blue-green algae at the mouth of the Davis canal recently.