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Climate Projections Depict Alarming Human Health Impacts on the Horizon

In several studies funded by NOAA's Oceans and Human Health Initiative (OHHI), findings shed light on how complex interactions and climate change alterations in sea, land and sky make ocean and freshwater environments more susceptible to toxic harmful algal blooms and proliferation of harmful microbes and bacteria.

Climate Change Could Prolong Toxic Algal Outbreaks by 2040 or Sooner

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Using cutting-edge climate modeling techniques equipped with future-year ocean and weather pattern projections, Stephanie Moore, Ph.D., with NOAA's West Coast Center for Oceans and Human Health and her partners at the University of Washington are predicting longer seasons of harmful algal bloom outbreaks in Puget Sound.

Image 1: Projected changes to the harmful algal bloom season in a future warmer climate. Credit: S. Moore, NOAA

Image 2: Intertidal oyster longlines in Samish Bay, Washington. Credit: Bill Dewey, Taylor Shellfish Farms, Inc.

Image 3: Herrold family harvesting oysters in Willapa Bay, Washington. Credit: Bill Dewey, Taylor Shellfish Farms, Inc.

More Atmospheric Dust From Global Desertification Could Lead to Increases of Harmful Bacteria in Oceans, Seafood

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Researchers at the University of Georgia, a NOAA OHHI Consortium for Graduate Training site, took a unique approach to look at how global desertification, or an increase in the amount of dust in the atmosphere based on climate change scenarios, could fuel the presence of harmful bacteria in the ocean and seafood. In a study conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, Erin Lipp, Ph.D., and graduate student Jason Westrich demonstrated that the sole addition of dust and its associated iron into seawater significantly stimulates growth and persistence of Vibrios, a class of ocean microbes that occur worldwide and can cause gastroenteritis and infectious diseases in humans, most notably cholera.

Image 1: Growth of Vibrio in response to the addition of dust can be easily seen within 24 hours. Left: Vibrio cholerae in iron-limited seawater. Right: Vibrio cholerae in iron-limited seawater supplemented with Moroccan dust. Credit: E. Lipp, UGA.

Image 2: Example of Vibrio growth response to dust. Vibrio cholerae populations in seawater with Moroccan dust added increased by approximately 12-fold within 24 hours. Vibrio cholerae populations in iron-limited seawater alone did not grow and actually lost over 99% of their original population numbers. Credit: E. Lipp, UGA

Image 3: Aerosolized dust is clearly visible in the satellite image and stretches across the Atlantic Ocean nearly continuously from Western Africa into the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Credit: SeaWIFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and ORBIMAGE.

Increased Rainfall and Dated Sewers Could Affect Water Quality in Great Lakes

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Using fine-tuned climate models developed for Wisconsin, Sandra McLellan, Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences found spring rains are expected to increase in the next 50 years and areas with grandfathered sewer systems are more likely to become inundated with rainwater and overflow because the ground is frozen and rainwater can't be absorbed. Her team also found as little as 1.7 inches of rain in 24 hours can cause an overflow in spring.

Image 1: Projected change in the frequency of one inch rainfalls across Wisconsin in days per decade. Global Climate Models were downscaled to produce region specific projections using a statistical method developed by the Climate Working Group of the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. Data provided by D. Lorenz, M. Notaro, and D. Vimont, University of Wisconsin-Madison.