SAN DIEGO — Iridescent, neon blue waves have rolled back onto the shores of San Diego, marking the return of a popular, bucket-list item for nighttime beachgoers: spotting bioluminescence.
The waves were captured on video by photographer Vishwas Lokesh, who first saw the glowing surf on Wednesday night in La Jolla. Lokesh saw them again Thursday night, recording the dazzling display between 11:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. Friday near the Scripps UC San Diego campus.
The spectacular display of bioluminescence is connected with a phenomenon called a “red tide,” according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
These tides that look as though thousands of glowsticks were dumped into the ocean are caused by a build-up of microscopic organisms in the dinoflagellate species, Lingulodinium polyedra.
By day, these reddish-brown organisms in the plankton family gather at the surface, creating an intensified red color in the water — hence the name “red tide.” By night, the waves agitate the phytoplankton, prompting a chemical reaction that causes them to emit that blue glow.
The red tide, however, can be quite unpredictable. As soon as it washes into shallow waters, scientists are not sure how long it will last. Previous bioluminescence events have lasted anywhere from a week to one or more months, Scripps explains.
For those who want to try and spot the bioluminescence while it sticks around, Scripps says the displays are best viewed from a dark beach at least two hours after sunset, though visibility is not guaranteed.
Some of the best spots to catch the phenomenon are places farther away from the San Diego lights, including Torrey Pines State Beach, Sunset Cliffs and Solana Beach.
Lokesh told FOX 5 in an email that he saw the blue waves best around 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, which was about 90 minutes before high tide, on the north side of the Scripps pier.
“If the pattern holds, we should see them best around 9 p.m.,” Lokesh said.
So those looking to hunt for the bioluminescence, be sure to grab a blanket or some chairs, and prepare to wait on the shore for a bit to witness the breathtaking nightfall display.