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Conditions ripe for a record number of algae blooms

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A changing planet is fueling an increase in algae blooms.
An algae bloom on Little Rock Lake near Rice, Minn.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News 2018

Historic rains this spring flooded millions of acres of farmland, delivering another blow to farmers already coping with a trade war. But the flooding also signaled a potentially unprecedented season of algae blooms. Runoff from fields, carrying fertilizer and manure, ran into creeks and local watersheds, front-loading lakes and other bodies of water with nutrients that can fuel massive blooms. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted that the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico—a massive overgrowth of algae—could become the size of Massachusetts this summer, coming close to a record set in 2017, and that an algae bloom in Lake Erie could also reach a record size.

What about Minnesota? Two limnologists joined MPR News chief meteorologist Paul Huttner for a special edition of Climate Cast to talk about what Minnesotans can expect through July, August and September. They also talked about how a changing planet is fueling an increase in algae blooms.

Guests:

John Downing, director of the Minnesota Sea Grant and a leading limnologist – someone who studies inland bodies of water and their ecosystems

Adam Heathcote, ecosystem ecologist who studies the interactions between lake biogeochemistry and plankton ecology at the Science Museum of Minnesota