Mystery Behind California Beaches Glowing in Mesmerizing Neon Solved

  • After sunset, the glow fades but leaves behind odd odor

  • What's behind this shiny, glowing waves and garbage-like stink?

Glowing beach
Beach glowing because of bioluminescence. Image for representation only. Twitter

The coastline from Baja to Los Angeles has been glowing as the sun sets for some days driving the enthusiasts to rush to the shores to enjoy the mesmerizing view of blue waves with beautiful neon lights, despite the bad odor later.

The shores of Southern California started shining and glowing after the sunset because of colonies of algae or the plants that live in water which bloom and give the waves a glowing color. Called dinoflagellates, they appear in reddish-brown color on the ocean's surface, known as "red tide," said to be emanating sulphur-like odor as the glow starts fading.

However, the algae that bloomed on the shores of California are different as all algae do not result in display of neon colored waves.

The neon color is the result of mass of dinoflagellates mixing with the ocean water that leads to a chemical reaction involving enzyme luciferase and the compound 'luciferin' produced by the algae. It causes bioluminescence that makes the waves shine in neon color.

As only some algae can cause the glow, others can be dangerous and fatal to mammals and fish, say experts. However, the algae that showed up in the coast of California are not poisonous but there is a possibility that the algae turn poisonous when grown out of control, affecting the health of humans, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Red tide is also witnessed every summer along Florida's Gulf Coast. NOAA keeps the tab of the situation and wants people know in advance about the appearance of Red Tide. The bad odor that the entire show leaves behind stays as long as the glow fades away and the water turns to normal color.

However, the other version is that when red tide reaches its final phase of fading or dying, bacteria start consuming the organic material, and they are the ones releasing odor. And there's no certainty about the time when the garbage-like smell disappears completely from the shores.

This article was first published on May 15, 2020