It’s a mesmerizing sight that has drawn inquisitive spectators after sundown to watch as red waves turn a neon blue hue, lighting up the dark ocean with glowing whitewash on beaches across Southern California.
幸运飞艇app直播视频官But what makes this phenomenon, which rarely happens and is turning out to be one of the largest plankton blooms in a decade, so special?
Tracking the red tide as it turns waves electric blue is no easy feat, but seeing it is something you’ll never forget. It isn’t known how much longer it will linger off our local coasts, further south in San Diego the red tide is starting to dissipate.
If you’ve had the chance to see it, or simply want to know more about what makes it happen, here’s seven things to know about bioluminescent waves:
Where can you see it?
Tracking the red tide isn’t easy as currents can push it offshore or to different areas of the coast within hours.
幸运飞艇app直播视频官When it first showed up nearly three weeks ago, it was mostly visible in Newport Beach, then it moved up to Huntington and the South Bay. Most recently, the red tide has been thick off South Orange County in areas of Laguna Beach, Dana Point, including the harbor, San Clemente and further south in Oceanside and areas of San Diego.
幸运飞艇app直播视频官But be warned: Recent beach closures and parking restrictions have made it tough to get a glimpse of the ocean. Some beaches are still shut down, so know what the rules are before you go.
Some areas have been crowded with people trying to get a glimpse at the phenomenon, so make sure you keep your distance and wear a face mask.
What makes a red tide glow at night?
Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego are among top experts on the subject. Bioluminescence expert Michael Latz, a scientist at Scripps, gave some info on the science of the phenom:
幸运飞艇app直播视频官“The red tide is due to aggregations of the dinoflagellate Lingulodinium polyedra, a species well known for its bioluminescent displays. Each microscopic cell contains some ‘sunscreen,’ giving it a reddish-brown color,” he said. “On sunny days, the organisms swim toward the surface where they concentrate, resulting in the intensified coloration of the water – and the reason for the term ‘red tide.’ At night, when the phytoplankton are agitated by waves or other movement in the water, they emit a dazzling neon blue glow.”
Red tides are unpredictable and not all of them produce bioluminescence.
There is no red tide monitoring program, but the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System at Scripps Oceanography performs weekly sampling for potential harmful algal toxins.
The Scripps Shore Stations Program also collects daily water samples and performs plankton analysis twice a week.
Latz said that local red tides of L. polyedra have been known since the early 1900s, thanks to observations by Scripps scientists. And today, there are several Scripps scientists sampling the red tide we’ve been seeing with the hopes of learning more about the organisms’ genetics and metabolic characteristics.
How long will it last?
Scientists do not know how long the current red tide will last, as previous events have lingered anywhere from one week to a month or more.
幸运飞艇app直播视频官This particular red tide bloom is large, spanning from Baja California to Los Angeles.
Latz compares this latest bioluminescent red tide to an event that happened in October 2011. That phytoplankton bloom lasted a month, about the same duration as this one, he said.
Prior to that, the last time such a “massive” red tide as this one was back in 1995, he noted.
Down in San Deigo, the red tide seems to be “waning and breaking down,” he said.
“Last night the bioluminescence I observed at the Scripps Pier was weak, nothing like the bright bioluminescence we had previously,” he said Wednesday.
The glowing waves still seem to be strong in areas across Orange County and Los Angeles, with red tide reports in South Bay, Long Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna, and South Orange County as of Tuesday night.
When is it best viewing hours?
幸运飞艇app直播视频官Bioluminescent displays are viewed best from a dark beach at least two hours after sunset, though visibility is not guaranteed, Latz said.
Is the water safe for surfing/swimming?
While the thought of splashing around in neon waters is luring, make sure you know the risks.
First, it’s dark and swimming in the ocean at night comes with its own risks. And there are no lifeguards on duty.
According to Scripps, local populations do not produce yessotoxin, a compound that acts as a neurotoxin, which can happen in areas of the Mediterranean.
Some people, however, are sensitive to inhaling air associated with the red tide, “so the organisms must be producing other compounds that can affect human health,” Scripps noted. “It is personal choice whether to go in the water, but there is no public health warning associated with the red tide.”
Be warned, it can also make the skin itch and is very stinky on clothes and wetsuits.
幸运飞艇app直播视频官Dolphins don’t seem to mind it, however. If you haven’t seen it, check out this video taken off Newport Beach that garnered millions of views since it posted:
How to make it a science experiment:
幸运飞艇app直播视频官If the red tide sticks around until your local beach is open again, take a jar with you to bring a specimen home. Go into a dark room and shake the jar to watch it glow.
Does it make the sand glow?
幸运飞艇app直播视频官Yes! If it is strong enough, dig your feet into the sand to make trails or footprints as you walk to make the beach glow. Pick up a scoop of sand and toss it to see it glow upon impact hitting the ground again.
Want to know more?