The neon waves are lighting up the coast again.
Last spring a massive red tide brought one of the most memorable displays of bioluminescence to SoCal beaches—and it looks like we may have a fairly big bloom again this year. Locals in Dana Point, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach have spotted bioluminescence over the last week, with a small amount seen in La Jolla. There’s a good chance San Diego will see more soon, the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System told the Tribune.
Bioluminescence is the light emitted from a living organism through a chemical reaction that happens in their bodies. Bioluminescent marine creatures like phytoplankton, algae, and jellies tend to have a stunning glowing effect when disturbed. The phenomenon is largely harmless and usually occurs around this time of year.
In Southern California, the glowing effect is created by the Dinoflagellate Lingulodinium polyedra population. Each cell of this microscopic organism is only 35 µm in diameter—which means you need a lot of them to create the blue radiance. That, along with strong winds and currents makes these blooms pretty elusive and those that get to see them are lucky indeed.
Seeing a luminous blue wave crashing on the shores and lighting up the night is a truly magical spectacle. While there’s no sure way of finding them, you can attempt to track sightings on social media by following hashtags like #bio2021 or #bioluminescence.
So far, nothing has been spotted in Los Angeles but we’re patiently keeping an eye out.
Featured image: Brandon Herrick, 2020