Algae in Lake Okeechobee

  • Released Wednesday, July 20th, 2016
  • Updated Friday, August 25th, 2023 at 12:41AM
  • ID: 30791

In early May 2016, an algae bloom grew to cover 85 square kilometers (33 square miles) of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. The conditions that gave rise to the bloom persisted into July, and were blamed for affecting water quality downstream all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. The blue-green algae bloom is visible in this image of Lake Okeechobee, acquired on July 2, 2016, by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite. The natural-color image combines red light, green light, blue light (bands 4, 3, and 2).

Algae blooms are a regular phenomenon in Lake Okeechobee during the summertime. Pollution, such as runoff from farms, and lake water that warms through the summer, create an environment favorable for growth. Water managers started discharging water from the lake early in 2016 to counter the large amount of winter rainfall. That discharge flows through St. Lucie Canal—visible on the lake’s eastern side—and enters the Atlantic Ocean near Stuart, Florida. On June 29, 2016, Florida’s governor declared a state of emergency in Martin and St. Lucie counties after the blooms appeared in local waterways. According to news reports, water samples collected from the lake and from the river near Stuart tested positive for high levels of toxins produced by the algae. The algae and their toxins can disrupt ecosystems. They also pose concerns for human health, as ingesting algae-tainted water can cause nausea, vomiting and, in extreme cases, liver failure.

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Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center


This visualization is related to the following missions:

Datasets used in this visualization

Landsat-8 True Color (A.K.A. Band Combination 2,3,4) (Collected with the OLI sensor)
Observed Data

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