See What a Massive Algae Infested Lake Looks Like From Space

Written by Emilio Brown
Published: October 13, 2022
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In the summer, lakes and other freshwater sources begin to bloom more often with blue-green algae. If you have visited a lake with an algae infestation, then you may already know what large amounts of bloom look like. With satellites, we are able to see what an algae-infested lake looks like from above and track the growth in the water.

Looking at things from a bird’s eye view can give you a unique perspective on things, and WOW, do some things look different! If you love cool images and want to learn a bit about algae, then you are in luck. Take a look at this algae-infested lake from above.

What Is an Algae Bloom? 

NASA satellite photo of Lake Okeechobee filled with cyanobacteria (algae bloom)
This photo of Lake Okeechobee, taken July, 2016 from the Landsat 8 satellite, clearly shows a blue-green algae bloom.

©NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Caption by Kathryn Hansen., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, has existed for millions of years, and there are over 7,500 species on earth. Algae are typically found in freshwater sources such as lakes. Algae grow best in places with plenty of sunlight and nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen in the water. 

Warm temperatures, lots of sunlight, and an abundance of nutrients in the water can cause algae to bloom (as you can see in the image above) and form green streaks and clouds in the water. Bloom appears year-round, but in the summer months, infestations can happen more quickly. 

When the blue-green algae get too out of control, like in Lake Okeechobee, you should be cautious when in the area.

What an Algae-Infested Lake Looks Like From Space

This photo from space in July 2022 shows that half of Lake Okeechobee was covered with blue-green algae.
This photo from space in July 2022 shows that half of Lake Okeechobee was covered with blue-green algae.

©NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Above, you can find a satellite image showing all of the algae in the infested Lake of Okeechobee. Summer temperatures and too many nutrients in the water can lead to a mass amount of cyanobacterial blooms.

In July 2022, Lake Okeechobee was 45% covered in algae. The picture above shows areas of the lake that have the most algae. 

Large algae blooms can be seen with regular imaging. The image above is tracking the algae through fluorescent lights that are emitted by the organisms, and it was taken from space. NASA produces these images using light and other wavelengths to watch the algae and track how things change over time. 

Why Are Blue-Green Algae Infestations Harmful? 

When infestations of blue-green algae occur in lakes or other water sources, they can be extremely damaging to you and other life in the area. Some algae produce toxins or poisons that make their way around the water and harm the animals that come in contact with them. Toxic algae blooms have been known to kill animals like livestock or pets that end up drinking the water. 

Algae-infested lakes with large areas of toxic bloom have dead zones. No life-like fish is found in these areas. The toxic algae kill everything they come across, such as fish, mammals, and birds in the area.

The algae also block the sun, killing plants on the bottom of the sea floor. Activities like swimming and jet skiing should be stopped to limit contact in lakes with infestations.

When algae begin to bloom, they spread very quickly. Seeing the algae from space gets you another perspective on the small organisms living in the water.

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bright green algae covering the surface of a pond

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About the Author

Spiders, snakes, and lizards are my favorite types of animals, and I enjoy keeping some species as pets. I love learning about the various wonders nature has to offer and have been a writer for 5 years. In my spare time, you can find me getting out into nature.

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