Red Tide, Blue Surf

The surf is breaking blue in Southern California.  It’s also glowing.

If a glowing blue break isn’t strange enough, the water is red when seen lit.  This light show isn’t the product of a chemical spill or other man-made effort.

Tiny plankton, the algae Lingulodinium polyedrum, are red, but, when agitated, emit a light blue glow that can be seen in the dark.

The effect, a result of a chemical reaction, is usually seen in the wake of boats, but surfers are reporting enough of the bio-luminescent plankton in the water to leave trails behind them as well.

1.2 million of the plankton are being found in a liter (approx. 1/4 gallon) of water right now.  Mary Hilbern, a staff research associate with Scripps Institution of Oceanographyn explains that the phenomenon usually occurs in late summer or early fall, and some years is much stronger than others.

While it lasts, local residents can expect to enjoy glowing blue nighttime surf breaks and wakes, and damp sand that sparks then kicked up.


  • This is so interesting, any idea where in California? I would love to see this, I will be there in December. I wonder how long they will be present? Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply October 6, 2011


      san diego!!!! saw it the other night and its amazing!!!!!!

    • Reply October 6, 2011


      It’s actually happening right now!

      • Reply October 6, 2011


        Oops I read your question wrong, I know its happening at Ocean Beach, California.

    • Reply October 10, 2011


      It’s happening in Long Beach too! Well has been for the last month or so. Didn’t see it this morning though, so it may be gone. 🙁

      • Reply October 12, 2011


        WOW! Nature IS the best show on earth! Can’t say I have seen anything like this on the East Coast. (I’m 2 hours from Virginia Beach…only thing bright blue there is neon.) SO thankful for the lovely post!
        Great Share!

  • Reply October 3, 2011


    I lived in Long Beach and it happened there. In Huntington Beach or anywhere the waves are bigger you can see it glowing more during the night.

  • Reply October 4, 2011


    This is actually going on right now in my city of San Diego!

  • Reply October 5, 2011


    Is it possible that we are looking at the results from the fallout
    of the nuclear meltdown in Japan?

    • Reply October 7, 2011


      No, I’m from San Diego, and it happens about every year or so. I can remember being at the beach in 2002 and seeing it. No radiation, just nature.

  • Reply October 5, 2011


    Actually this happens in florida on the gulf of mexico too. We pushed some one off a small boat pier and their bodys out line in the water lit up. It was amazing!

  • Reply October 6, 2011

    Tribal arts and crafts

    Wow! Would like to see this myself, Amazing!

  • Reply October 7, 2011


    This happens just about anywhere in the world, we have it in the UK and Med.

    MMMinka, No this is not because of the fall our from Japan. Bioluminescent phytoplankton have been around for a long time and are ‘powered’ by light from the sun during the day not anything nuclear.

    It is a gorgeous phenomenon, normally when I have seen it it has been a much greeny colour although there are many types.

  • Reply October 7, 2011


    Do you know if it will be showing in Santa Cruz Beach, CA?

  • Reply October 7, 2011


    If you interested in seeing the bioluminescence, visit Puerto Rico! We went kayaking in Bio Bay in Vieques and it is the most concentrated area in the world. It was by far one of the coolest experiences!

  • Reply October 8, 2011


    I saw this in Boca Grande Florida when I was very young, it was amazing! But my marine biologist friend told me it was a random occurrence so you just have to keep checking the beaches at night.

  • Reply October 9, 2011


    Amazing… i just love it…it is beautiful…thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Reply October 9, 2011


    i saw this one of the pictures is from torrey pines beach which is where i went and saw it. its sooo amazing :)its happening i know in san diego but i think now it might be done.

  • Reply October 10, 2011


    its happening here too.. all the way in the Maldives =D

  • Reply November 21, 2016

    Cat Names

    Very beautiful place! It’s amazing and fantastic!

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