Thursday, November 29, 2012

Red Tide Blooms or HABS

It seems odd to be thinking of beaches and swimming as people in the northern hemisphere get ready for freezing temperatures and snow. But, if your holiday vacation plans extend to the sunny beaches off Australia, you might want to check out the region's red tide updates. Last week several blood red blooms were spotted off southern beaches causing beach closings to the dismay of locals and visitors alike.

But what causes red tides? Algae. Lots of microscopic plants (thousands/millions of cells per milliliter) that bloom at the same time. Scientists refer to them as "harmful algal blooms" or HABS. Red tides can last a few days to months depending on nutrients, sunlight, water temp., wind, etc. Some algal species produce powerful toxins that can kill fish, shellfish, mammals, and are unhealthy to humans. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and other organizations track these algal blooms. 

So, if hot southern destinations are on your schedule in December/January 
(lucky you!), see if they are susceptible to red tides. You might want to enjoy the swimming pools instead.

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