Glowing Waves

Ocean visitors in southern California are experiencing mesmerizing bioluminescent waves along their shores. 

The phenomenon occurs every couple years along the California coast and is caused by an algal bloom of phytoplankton which causes agitated water to glow with a beautiful blue light. Up close, you can even see the small glowing sparkles stick to your hand and the sand.

 

The phytoplankton organisms, known scientifically as Lingulodinium polyedra, are responsible for the bioluminescent effects. During the day, they give the water a reddish brown hue as they collect on the surface. This is why the phenomenon is also called a “red tide.” 


The beautiful display can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. It has been documented on the California coast since 1990, but occurs all around the world. Scientists say it is safe to swim in the water as red tide algae in the state do not produce yessotoxin, a compound that acts as a neurotoxin, which happens in areas of the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico. 


Although it does not pose a chemical risk, officials are - of course - urging Californians to continue to respect social distancing guidelines and beach closures and be extremely cautious if swimming at night.


Watch a startling video: