Clear Lake’s Massive Algae Bloom Can Be Seen From Space

Northern California’s Clear Lake is anything but clear these days, thanks to a colossal algae bloom that can be seen from space. Images from NASA show a bright green hue at the site, which is located about 100 miles north of San Francisco.

Experts say the likely culprit is cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae. The bacteria can produce toxins that affect the liver, nervous system, kidneys and skin. But it’s also vital to the lake’s ecosystem. 

County health officials have advised residents to avoid water that’s discolored, scummy, or emitting a foul odor. Pet owners should be especially cautious, since cyanobacteria can be harmful to dogs.

Algae blooms are nothing new for Clear Lake, but the phenomenon is occurring earlier than usual this year.

“We never expect Clear Lake to be crystal blue like say Tahoe, and if it did we wouldn’t have giant largemouth bass," City Manager Alan Flora told KCRA

This summer, the city will begin testing specialized technologies that could potentially mitigate negative impacts of the blooms, Flora said. That’s an important step, as algae blooms become more frequent and problematic due to climate change.

In the meantime, it’s never a bad idea to check water conditions before visiting. You can do that by calling Lake County Water Resources at 707-263-2344 or view this map to see cyanobacteria flare-ups.