Exploring San Diego


Bioluminescence tide captured along San Diego's coast

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Posted at 1:28 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-19 12:36:52-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Photos posted on social media are capturing the annual return of the red tide and beautiful bioluminescence phenomenon.

The blue, neon glow of the tide is created by algae blooms, known as red tides, that are filled with phytoplankton called "dinoflagellates.” The organisms react with bioluminescence when jostled by the moving water.

Photos of illuminated tides were caught in Encinitas, Oceanside, San Diego, and Ocean Beach this week, according to photos posted on social media.

"Where the wave crashes onto the shore, as it rolls over that’s where the turbulence is highest," Clarissa Anderson, of The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told 10News last year. "That’s why those are really bright stripes of light. We don’t know the exact smoking gun yet. It’s a certain set of environmental conditions."

According to Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing Systems, Harmful Algal Bloom monitoring program (SCCOOS HAB), there's currently Lingulodinium polyedra in the water, also known as L .poly. The bioluminescent species is a dinoflagellate causing the red bands seen in coastal waters.

Despite the awe-inspiring sight, it's not recommended that people visit piers or coastal waters to capture the bioluminescence in the tide.

Instead, people can check out the waters via the Scripps Pier cam here.

It’s unclear exactly how long red tides last. In the past, algae blooms have lasted anywhere between a week to a month, according to researchers.