This year, Florida has had both an earlier arrival and higher concentrations of the red tide phenomenon, which is brought on by massive concentrations of the deadly alga Karenia brevis.
According to BBC News, the hazardous algae create brevetoxins that can destroy marine life and cause health issues for humans.
The algae grow in offshore seas by tracing the movement of nutrients from the ocean floor toward the coast, where they assemble.
According to oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Richard Stumpf, they simply accumulate there and grow on whatever nutrients they can find. They excel at scavenging the few nutrients present in the water.
According to BBC News, red tide has been a problem in Florida and Texas in the summer and fall since the 1800s.
Last Monday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reported finding the algae in 115 samples taken from the state’s west coast. 56 of the samples contained medium to high quantities of the organisms.
Red Tide Levels in Florida Are Currently Displayed on A Map created by The Fwc.
Those with respiratory conditions like asthma may experience special difficulties as a result of the toxins produced by the algae. According to NPR, the poisons can build up in shellfish and result in neurotoxic shellfish poisoning.
The toxins have also been found to harm dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles in addition to seabirds that feed on fish that have been exposed to the organisms.
The FWC has advised people not to swim in or near red tide-affected waters because the algae may cause rashes and irritate the skin and eyes.
The algae, according to Stumpf, are native to the Gulf of Mexico and migrate offshore in the fall to settle. The algae are typically pushed back into the Gulf by high pressure and winter winds from the north in Florida, where they remain until the following year.
But This Year Wasn’t Like Others.
According to Stumpf, it can linger if there is a year without the persistent northerly winds that force it out, as The Washington Post noted. That’s what’s taking place this year.
Destructive algae blooms may occur more frequently and with greater intensity as a result of climate change’s rising temperatures, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Severe weather can also increase runoff, which contains fertilizer and other nutrients that can enter waterways and go to the ocean, where they serve as food for harmful algae.