If you haven't seen them, now is your chance. Eerie neon blue waves are crashing on San Diego shores this week, creating a rare sight and plenty of photo opportunities for locals. The phenomenon is created when a red tide, which is an algae bloom of phytoplankton called "dinoflagellates," rolls off waves near the shoreline.
The tiny organisms react with a bioluminescent chemical reaction when jostled as a way to warn predators, to lure their prey, or to communicate with their species. In this case the blue glow can be triggered by a simple step in the water or the crashing of the waves on the beach.
According to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego, the current red tide is being caused by massive numbers of dinoflagellates including "Ceratium falcatiforme" and "Lingulodinium Polyedra."
In the past, red tide has lasted anywhere from a week to a month but researchers have no idea how long the current red tide will last, so grab your camera and get to the beach ASAP.
Is it Harmful?
In some cases a red tide can be harmful to local marine life. In California thou gh the majority are not caused by a species that produce toxins, such as domoic acid, but it's still best to be cautious around the bloom.
The Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System at Scripps samples the water weekly for potential harmful algal toxins.
Why Is The Tide Red?
The red coloration is caused by the organisms themselves which swim to the surface to soak up the sunlight. When the organisms gather at the surface they create a really intense red.