(WKBN) – A harmful algae bloom that can be toxic to humans and aquatic life has been spotted in western parts of Lake Erie over the past couple of days. The type of algae present in this algae bloom has been identified as Microcystis cyanobacteria.

The harmful algae bloom is mostly confined to extreme western Lake Erie near Toledo and parts of southeastern Michigan. You can view the most recent position of the algae bloom below:

The current position of the harmful algae bloom caused by Microcystis cyanobacteria. The red and orange colors represent a high density of algae while the green and blue colors represent a lower density. The black color represents no algae bloom activity. The data in this image are valid for 2 p.m Eastern Time and was provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The algae blooms produce scum that manifests itself in a red or orange color. The scum can be toxic to aquatic life as well as humans and animals. If you see the scum in the waters of Lake Erie, keep yourself and others away from it.

The algae bloom is forecast to stay in the same location and continue its same intensity for a couple of days and then start to shrink from east to west starting on Thursday. You can view the forecasted position of the algae bloom from NOAA below:

Forecasted position of the harmful algae bloom for the next couple of days.

What is a harmful algae bloom?

Harmful algae blooms occur every year across the United States and are common in Lake Erie. These microscopic, single-celled organisms are a critical part of the food chain that pose no threat in most cases. However, sometimes, certain conditions provide an environment where these algae can grow out of control and produce toxins that are damaging to aquatic and human life. The algae blooms manifest themselves by producing red and orange scum that is detrimental to the lake ecosystem.

How do harmful algae blooms form?

The science behind harmful algae blooms is not well understood, however, one of the prevailing scientific theories is that a surplus of nutrients (mainly phosphorus and nitrogen) from agricultural areas runs off into lakes and oceans and overfeeds the algae resulting in excessive blooming. These outbreaks are enhanced when water temperatures are extremely warm and there is little wind.