Oneida Lake. Provided photo to Cornell

Ithaca, N.Y. — A new study out this week finds that temperatures on Central New York’s Oneida Lake are likely to rise by 6 degrees by the next century because of climate change.

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That new environment could lead to more blue-green algae on the lake and prove disastrous for some of its fish.

“This would be enough to remove oxygen from (the lake’s) bottom waters, alter its species composition and eradicate its remaining cold water fish species,” writes Cornell’s Blaine Friedlander in his summary of the researchers’ findings.

Oneida Lake. Provided photo to Cornell

Oneida Lake is the biggest lake in New York and has played a crucial role in the state’s history, both in the American Revolution and in the subsequent construction of the Erie Canal.

The lead author of the study was Amy Lee Hetherington, a doctoral candidate in natural resources. The paper also found that temperatures on the lake are likely to rise to 2.5 degrees by 2050, according to Friedlander’s summary.

The big problem with a hotter lake is that it will increase what’s called “stratification,” or layers forming between the hottest part of the lake and the coldest.

“By 2099 Oneida Lake could see an additional 61 consecutive days of stratification,” Friedlander writes.

This will therefore also increase the prevalence of “cyanobacteria” — the algae that are already a problem on the lake. The lake has been closed several times in the last five years because of these toxins, according to Cornell.

“Research indicates that cyanobacteria blooms will likely increase with climate change,” said Hetherington in the summary.

Also involved with the study was: Lars G. Rudstam, director of the Cornell Biological Field Station on Oneida Lake; Gideon Gal, research scientist at the Kinneret Limnological Laboratory in Israel; Art DeGaetano, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences; and Todd Walter, associate professor of biological and environmental engineering.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.