With each wave that breaks, the pulse of bright blue neon electrifies the dark waters, illuminating the white as it crumbles towards the shore.

The bioluminescence that creates the glowing waves has reappeared on the Orange County coast, and while it is unclear how long it will last, areas of dense red tide seen recently from Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and San Clemente may indicate that it might wait a while.

During the day, photosynthetic organisms move upwards towards the light, forming a thin, dense layer near the surface. Then, bioluminescent dinoflagellates, disturbed by waves, a passing boat, and even a sea creature turn the water light blue.

Not every red wave leads to glowing waves; flower Last April, some experts worried about sea birds weren’t the kind that lit up the night. A glowing type of red tide has been seen sporadically from South Bay to San Diego over the past few years, most often difficult to track or stay for only a few nights at a time.

Michael Latz, a bioluminescence expert at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said he spotted red spots near San Clemente last week. He said it was reasonable to think that it was related to the huge boom off the coast in 2020, which brought the masses to the beach to see electrified waves in the early days of the pandemic.

“It was likely that many cysts were produced at the time, forming a seed bank from which cells can later emerge in floating cells,” he wrote in an email.

The same Lingulodinium polyedra, he noted, had been seen in more than usual abundance in San Diego for some time.

Clarissa Anderson, executive director of the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System, said it had just received an imaging report from samples taken from the Newport Beach pier. The species detected was Lingulodinium polyedra, the same one that emerged in 2020 and likely breeding from still lingering cysts – however it’s not uncommon for these blooms this time of year, she said.

Kay’s big rainstorm rains may have stimulated parts of this flowering and potentially contributed to the bacterial load, Anderson said, although she added that the duration of the hurricane event was short and very patchy.

The naval teams stayed observing the red tide to see if it has affected local wildlife in last weeks. Certain species of phytoplankton can have harmful effects on birds and marine mammals.

National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration officials say they monitor red tides to find ways to detect and forecast blooms in order to give “communities advance warnings so they can plan and deal with adverse environmental and health impacts.”

While most people won’t respond if they’re swimming or surfing in blooms, some people are sensitive to algae particles and their associated bacteria in the water, Anderson said.

Some people report itchy skin or trouble breathing. The red wave can also leave a strange smell on swimwear or wetsuits.

The Environmental Health Risk Assessment Office asks anyone who experiences an irritation or an allergic reaction to water to: complete the survey so they can track and document cases.

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