Glowing blue waves are back in Southern California, lighting up beaches with bioluminescent waters. It is a beautiful, yet unusual sight for beachgoers who saw the nocturnal waves last week. This stunning phenomenon has been documented in Oxnard and Malibu. It’s also been witnessed at Newport and Laguna Beaches, and off the San Diego coastline.
Bioluminescent waves are created by dinoflagellate algae, which turns ocean waters red during the day. At night the waters glow a beautiful blue due to the algae being agitated. Mark Girardeau, who runs Orange County Outdoors, has been documenting the bioluminescent phenomenon for the past few years. He and fellow photographer’s, Patrick Coyne, last observation was Wednesday, August 30th, 2023, at Crescent Bay, near the Laguna Beach Coastline.
Girardeau and Coyne would travel to Main Beach, where the waves glowed brighter. The two found pools of water from the high night tide, splashing around in the vibrant blue. Twenty other people joined them in the fun. Honestly this sounds like one of the most fun activities anyone can enjoy.
Coyne recently returned from Florida, where he was part of a project documenting the summer East Coast algae bloom. The bloom is more predictable compared to the West Coast, so predictable that charter companies host tours for people to watch the glow. The wind and tides make bioluminescent waves challenging to find along the West Coat at night.
Girardeau and Coyne have been chasing the glowing blue waves since a super bloom along the Southern California Coast in 2020. That super bloom was caused by an exceedingly high density of Lingulodinium polyedra, a species of plankton known for their blue glow.