Blue Waves Captivate SoCal Residents

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Residents of Southern California were treated to a rare phenomenon this week. A display known as sea sparkle lit up the coastline with blue waves that emit a bright blue light as they crash.

The light show comes as a result of an algae bloom. During the day, a collection tiny organisms known as dinoflagellates discolor the water. Under the sun, those observing them witness a red tinge beneath the water’s surface. Hence the name red tide. However, at night, if the creatures possess bioluminescent traits, they produce the blue waves seen by those along SoCal’s coastline.

The single cell organisms utilize their bioluminescence to ward of predators. Effectively, it frightens larger creatures attempting to eat them. Though, a similar reaction occurs when waves batter them around. Therefore, when a large density of them congregate near the shore, their collective defense mechanisms create the blue waves, or sea sparkle.

Blue Waves Unpredictable

Scientists still don’t know all the factors that lead to blue waves. Aspects of the dinoflagellates behavior continues to perplex them. For example, not all red tides result in nightly blue waves.

Also, their patterns prove difficult to track. These factors make it difficult to predict when the next sea sparkle will occur. However, the current red tide stretches from the Los Angeles area all the way down to Baja California. Along stretches of that red tide, sections of the coastline light up with sea sparkle.

Past red tides remained stationed off the coast anywhere from a few days to more than a month.

Despite orders to remain at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, residents still ventures towards the beaches to catch a glimpse of the dazzling phenomenon. People came out in Orange County, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach to observe the aquatic light show.

Photo: catalano82 derivative work: Yikrazuul / CC BY

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