Hobart and William Smith Colleges - Halfman Discusses Climate Change and Toxic Algae in the Finger Lakes
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Halfman Discusses Climate Change and Toxic Algae in the Finger Lakes

Professor of Environmental Studies John Halfman was featured on a segment on WROC-TV News 8 on May 3 as a part of a Weather Week segment, discussing how climate change is a leading contributor to the increase of toxic algae in the Finger Lakes.

For the past 25 years, Halfman has been measuring water temperatures in the Finger Lakes. In the segment, he discusses how the warming over that time period has been statistically significant, and that warmer water and warmer air are not the only things that global climate change is influencing.

“Another effect of climate change would be there’s more really brief but very significant rainstorms,” says Halfman. “Because of those really intense events, there’s probably a direct correlation with what’s going on with the algal concentrations in these lakes.”

Halfman discusses how events such as rainstorms and flooding relate to the increase of harmful alga blooms. Using the example of the flooding in Lodi, N.Y. in 2018, Halfman explains that the flooding picked up everything in its path including nutrients and chemicals and brought it into the lake. “Excess nutrients from runoff and other sources can promote algal blooms, and lately blue green algae with toxins, he says.”

The segment also shared the impact the algae blooms have on the Finger Lakes region. Halfman also notes that blue green algae can synthesize a variety of toxins and some of their toxins can cause neurological disorders in humans. This could eventually reduce tourism in the area, he says.

Halfman joined the Hobart and William Smith Colleges faculty in 1994. He teaches in the Department of Geoscience and the Environmental Studies Program. Halfman helped establish the Finger Lakes Institute at HWS which is dedicated to the promotion of environmental research and education about the Finger Lakes and surrounding environments.

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