Insight & Analysis

Red tides at night…

Published: Apr 2020

A photographer in Newport, California captured footage of a rare phenomenon at the beach – glowing waves.

bio-luminescence-illumination-of-plankton-at-maldives

“Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning,” is how the saying goes for weather, so what about tides?

Patrick Coyne shared the video to his Instagram page, showing stunning footage of waves crashing on a beach in California and glowing a luminous blue. The phenomenon is known as a red tide, as during the day these tides have a reddish hue.

Coyne explained in the post that a friend had alerted him to the fact that conditions were indicating the glowing waves were possible, and that it’s caused by bioluminescent algae in the water.

As explained by National Geographic, bioluminescent waves are the product of marine microbes called phytoplankton. The specific type of phytoplankton that causes the blue glow are known as dinoflagellates, and according to Dimitri Deheyn in an interview with NBC News, the glowing is a natural defence mechanism from predators that try to eat the blooms.

“The algae makes a light when a fish or little shrimp tries to eat it,” he explains. “That lights attracts a bigger fish that can eat whatever is trying to eat the algae.”

There’s no real predictor of when red tides can happen, but they can last anywhere from a week to a month or more. So if you’re lucky enough to live in a hotspot for this beautiful show, make sure you take a picture or two!

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