Bioluminescent Waves


Creator: Mark Rightmire | Credit: Staff Photographer Copyright: © 2020, Orange County Register/SCNG Information extracted from IPTC Photo Metadata

Crowds watch as bioluminescent waves from a red tide light up the night as they roll on shore at North Beach in San Clemente on Wednesday evening, May 6, 2020.(Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Kiera Vick and Riley Platenberg

Along the coast of Southern California a natural phenomenon, otherwise known as the ride tide, appeared. This occurrence of bioluminescent waves was caused by the massive growth of tiny, microscopic algae, which is a type of phytoplankton in the ocean. Many people were stir crazy after having been stuck in quarantine for over a month and visited the open beaches at night to capture photos of this event. The length of time that the algae bloom continues is dependent on many things such as, available nutrients and sunlight, water temperature, changes in wind or surf conditions, competition with other species, and grazing by zooplankton and small fish. The California coast was experiencing precipitation levels 200-400% above average! As a result lots of runoff appeared in our ocean. These factors contributed to making the surface waters more hospitable to L. polyedra, a species of motile photosynthetic dinoflagellates

Although it’s called the red tide, at night blue waves crash onto shore. This color is caused by a chemical reaction that results from the movement of algae. When the thousands of microscopic phytoplankton combine, and a wave crashes, a vibrant blue color appears.  Phytoplankton contains pigments that can give off a reddish color when millions of cells are concentrated in each gallon of seawater. In the day the oceans color comes off as red, but in the night it’s a bright blue. These bright luminous waters even helped to guide Captain Jim Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13, to his landing ship while his navy plane had no power. The bioluminescence waves are a very rare occurrence, and you should definitely experience these magical waves.