If you’re in Southern California and think the ocean’s waves have been glowing at night, there’s no need to worry. Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you — and it’s not your imagination, either.
The electric blue, glowing waves appeared last year, drawing huge crowds. Then, they appeared about a month ago — but quickly disappeared again. Now, the glowing blue waves are back in the waters off Newport Beach and Venice Beach.
Why It Happens
The glowing blue light happens thanks to a bioluminescent algae bloom. Bioluminescence, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains, is the ability of organisms to create — and emit — light using chemical reactions.
“Humans primarily see bioluminescence triggered by a physical disturbance, such as waves or a moving boat hull, that gets the animal to show their light off, but often animals light up in response to an attack or in order to attract a mate,” a Smithsonian Institute article explains. “Bioluminescent organisms live throughout the water column, from the surface to the seafloor, from near the coast to the open ocean. In the deep sea, bioluminescence is extremely common, and because the deep sea is so vast, bioluminescence may be the most common form of communication on the planet!”
Why It’s Happening Now
Spring is the perfect time of year for a bioluminescent algae bloom off California’s coast because it can bring plenty of rain immediately followed by warmer weather. That’s what happened in the SoCal area last year, and again this spring. The ocean’s seasonal current improves the conditions.
“This time of year, we see a lot of circulation in the coastal ocean that brings nutrients to the surface, and those nutrients are important for the growth of this organism,” Clarissa Anderson, executive director of the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System located at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told LAist. “It can do well with some of the colder water that we’re seeing right now.” However, she adds that since the algae likes to bloom in warm water, “you’ll see it fall, in summer, it’s pretty flexible.”
Know Before You Go
Going to see the bioluminescent waves seems like a perfect activity as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. After all, it’s something to do outside in fresh air. However, keep in mind that the State of California requires cloth face coverings for anyone over the age of two when they are in public spaces and there are other people who don’t live in your household within six feet. More information about Newport Beach conditions can be found here. More information about Orange County restrictions may be found here. And, if you’re in another part of the country or the world and want to experience bioluminescent phenomena, consider