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Washington State Researcher Updates Partners with Status of Algal Bloom Model

Published on: 01/09/2012

Dr. Barbara Hickey of the University of Washington recently presented the current status of their harmful algal bloom (HAB) modeling efforts to state, tribal, and federal agency partners with the Washington State Olympic Region Harmful Algal Bloom (ORHAB) Program. HAB managers learned of recent modeling advances that may benefit regional efforts to predict and mitigate the impacts of HAB blooms.

Dr. Hickey's team displayed movies of model results demonstrating how plankton blooms develop seasonally in HAB hotspots and how winds move blooms to coastal beaches. In 2005 for example, model tracking from the two known HAB hotspots, one north and one south of the central Washington coast, successfully hindcast observed HAB landfalls on WA clamming beaches for that year.

Model runs that include the Columbia River freshwater plume vividly illustrate how the plume location plays a vital role in determining whether or not a toxic bloom will be transported to coastal beaches or transported offshore where it can do no harm. The model now includes Puget Sound, coastal estuaries and river plumes, and extends north to central British Columbia and south to the California border. This project is funded by the NCCOS-Pacific Northwest HAB project ("PNWTOX").

The model has been highly successful in part because of validation using results from previous extensive NCCOS-supported regional Pacific Northwest HAB projects such as PNWTOX and ORHAB. Managers are encouraged to factor the location of the Columbia plume into predictions of potential HAB landfalls prior to opening beaches for harvesting of razor clams.

Learn more about current NCCOS's Pacific Northwest HAB modeling. Learn more about previous NCCOS-funded Pacific Northwest HAB projects:

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