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October 4, 2011
Red Tide = Glow-in-the-Dark Blue Waves on San Diego Beaches
Who knew red tide caused blue waves?
San Diego's beaches are captivating many with an eerie nighttime phenomenon. It seems that "red tide" is causing bioluminescent glow-in-the-dark waves in the area, a sight that's almost too eerie to believe.
But you can see it for yourself in the videos below.
According to the Los Angeles Times, an unusual algae bloom has turned the surf red by day, and provided this effect at night.
"The electric blue glow is caused by an algae bloom commonly referred to as a "red tide." the organism, a phytoplankton claled Lingulodinium polydrum, has bloomed since late August, turning the water a brownish-red color in the daytime, according to UC San Diego scientists."
More specifically, the color is caused by a chemical reaction that results from the movement of the algae. Move a whole lot of algae at once (in say, the crash of a wave) and a brilliant flash of light becomes visible.
The event is mildly toxic, GrindTV reported, but isn't really harmful to humans beyond making a swim a bit uncomfortable. However the phenomenon has brought out sll sorts of adventurous types, especially surfers who can't wait to say they rode glow-in-the-dark waves.
How much longer the blue surf will last is unknown. According to the LA Times, while some spots have cleared up, others remain colored.
Watch (A quick clip of glow-in-the-dark waves) :
Watch (A more theatrical compilation of the waves):
What causes red tide?
The occurance of red tides in some locations appear to be entirely natural (algal blooms are a seasonal occurance resulting from upwelling, a natural result of the movement of certain ocean currents), while in others they appear to be a result of increased nutrient loading from human activities.
The growth of marine phytoplankton is generally limited by the availability of nitrates and phosphates, which can be abundant in agricultural run-off as well as coastal upwelling zones.
Coastal water pollution produced by humans, and systematic increase in sea water temperature, have also been implicated as contributing factors in red tides.
Some red tides are associated with wildlife mortalities of marine and coastal species of fish, birds, marine mammals, and other organisms.
Though red tides are a natural occurance, they are consistently monitored due to the increased frequency of the past several years caused by human impact, therefore impacting ocean ecology. In some instances in the Gulf of Mexico (where there are more unnatural occurances than natural), a red tide produces dead fish and wildlife along the beaches.
I'm a Master Naturalist and an outdoor enthusiast -- mostly kayaking, and I live on a Peninsula in the Chesapeake Bay. I'm the author of The Nature Fan, Nature Fan Activists, Green Earth Almanac, and Amanda's Geographic. Formerly, I ran the nationally syndicated column "National Green Activism" for The Examiner, and I was a key factor in the success of many campaigns. Make sure you don't miss a post, and subscribe by email! Thanks for reading.