Protecting Human Health and Coastal Economies with Early Warnings
Ecological forecasts, commonly referred to as "ecoforecasts," detail how interactions between organisms and their environment may affect economies and communities that depend on ecosystem services, human health, and the health of bodies of water. Ecoforecasts bring together wide-ranging research and observations to allow coastal resource managers to answer "What if?" questions about the numerous factors that affect coastal resources.
Select a location on the map below for an overview of ecological forecasting "hot spots" around the nation, focusing on NOAA forecasts available related to harmful algal blooms, coastal pathogens, and hypoxia. In addition to these forecasts, NOAA also publishes an experimental Four-Month Coral Bleaching Outlook that predicts the likelihood of coral bleaching heat stress up to four months in the future, the typical length of a bleaching season. The outlook is updated weekly, and is based on the daily sea surface temperature (SST).
In the Gulf of Mexico, HABs (or red tide) are caused by the rapid growth of a microscopic algae species called Karenia brevis. Red tide can impact the health of humans and animal life. NOAA provides forecasts that enable coastal communities as they respond to red tide. HAB Forecast Bulletins are distributed twice weekly to the management community during active bloom periods helping to reduce the impact of HAB events through rapid, coordinated responses.
Vibrio concentrations in oysters harvested from bottom waters of the Gulf are related to the temperature and salinity. NOAA uses the Northern Gulf of Mexico Operational Forecast System to predict expected concentrations of Vibrio parahaemolyticus in oysters at the time of harvest.
Perhaps the best known and largest hypoxic zone in the United States is the Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The consequences of such a large dead zone include massive fish kills, loss of critical coastal habitat, and economic losses related to commercially valuable shellfish closures. NOAA’s ability to forecast the dead zone’s size is critical in managing nutrient loads and understanding the effectiveness of nutrient reduction efforts in the Mississippi River Watershed.
Toxic blooms of Karenia brevis, also known as the red tide, bloom almost every year along the western Florida coastline. Karenia brevis produces potent neurotoxins that can be suspended in the air near beaches and cause human respiratory illness. These blooms have been the cause of large expanses of coral reef, benthic organism, and fish kills. NOAA is actively funding projects that will investigate the economic impacts of HABs in Florida. NOAA’s programs provide immediate assistance to states when a bloom is about to occur. HAB Forecast Bulletins are distributed twice weekly to the management community during active bloom periods helping to reduce the impact of HAB events through rapid, coordinated responses. The rate of emergency room admissions for respiratory diagnoses in Florida coastal residents can increase significantly during red tide events. NOAA is providing a risk level forecast for red tide respiratory impacts on beaches across southwest Florida. The 24-hour Experimental Red Tide Respiratory Forecasts are updated every three hours, following the collection and analysis of water samples. The forecast will typically be available on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Vibrio species are bacteria that occur naturally in our coastal waters, but certain species and strains can also be harmful to human health. The pathogenic bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus can cause gastroenteritis from consumption of raw oysters. This adversely affects both public health and the shellfish industry. NOAA’s Tampa Bay Vibrio predictive models let state managers know where and when to expect elevated concentrations of Vibrio, and forecast environmental conditions that promote rapid growth of Vibrio to inform both management and individual grower harvest decision making.
Toxic blooms of Karenia brevis along the coast of Texas have been responsible for fish kills and commercially valuable shellfish bed closures, resulting in economic impacts exceeding tens of millions of dollars. NOAA’s programs provide immediate assistance to states when a bloom is about to occur. HAB Forecast Bulletins are distributed twice weekly to the management community during active bloom periods helping to reduce the impact of HAB events through rapid, coordinated responses.