By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Algae blooms in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor are common in warmer months, but here we are in December, and an algae bloom is turning the water brown.

“It usually blooms in spring, in April and May,” says Dr. Allen Place, of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. “That’s when we see these big blooms. This, now occurring in December, is very, very odd.”

The bloom turns the harbor brown, and is commonly called a mahogany tide.

During large blooms, as algae dies and decays, oxygen is stripped from the water. Lose enough oxygen, and fish deaths can follow. That is not expected this time.

The most immediate effect is on water clarity.

“Last Monday, we saw about seven feet into the water,” says Claire Cambardella, with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Now, that visibility has been reduced to a little more than one foot.

So why a bloom now?

“Water temperature is a little bit up, relative to what they usually are, and there’s always sufficient nutrients in the bay for it to bloom,” Dr. Place said.

And though considered unusual, winter algae blooms have actually been increasing.

“The truth is we’ve had three winter blooms in the last three years,” Dr. Place said. [Reporter: “Is this the new norm?”] “Basically.”

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