Hazardous Air Quality Forecasting from Aquatic Cyanobacteria Emissions


  • Dennis Ngo Aspiring Scientists' Summer Internship Program Intern
  • Ling Ren Aspiring Scientists' Summer Internship Program Mentor
  • Siqi Ma Aspiring Scientists' Summer Internship Program Co-mentor
  • Daniel Tong Aspiring Scientists' Summer Internship Program Mentor




Certain cyanobacteria are known to produce harmful cyanotoxins, which can be transported into the atmosphere as aerosols under certain conditions. Airborne cyanotoxins are a growing concern, as harmful cyanobacterial blooms (CyanoHABs) expand globally under climate change and rising water temperature. Many cyanotoxins can link to adverse health issues including respiratory effects. However, the effects of cyanotoxins on air quality and subsequent public health issues are still understudied. Using data from NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite, we linked chlorophyll concentrations in the Great Lakes and US coasts with cyanotoxin emission data from previous studies. Intensive literature review showed that different cyanobacteria species produce various toxins, and the emissions of cyanotoxins are related to bloom intensity, aerosolization, and droplet formation. We find that in areas with prevalent harmful cyanobacterial blooms, midsummer months record high levels of cyanotoxin concentrations in the atmosphere. Studies suggest that under certain weather conditions, anatoxin and microcystin molecules are able to travel at least a few kilometers from the shoreline. A detailed table is put together to summarize the information including cyanobacterial HAB species, the compounds they emit, and the production and/or emission rate of the compounds. This information has important implications in forecasting the levels of cyanotoxins present in the air to recognize when airborne cyanotoxin concentrations are potentially dangerous. Our study provides information necessary to incorporate these hazardous compounds to the air quality model (CMAQ).





College of Science: Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic & Earth Sciences