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Bioluminescent algae spotted along parts of Virginia’s coastline

Bioluminescent algae cause a vibrant glow in the waves along parts of Virginia’s coastline

Kat Hamilton - Virginia Beach
Kat Hamilton - Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – When scrolling through the Exploring Virginia Facebook page, you can find a few different examples of ocean waves glowing blue and green over the past week. One example, as seen above, is from Kat Hamilton who allowed us permission to use this unique photo for this article.

This kind of vibrant glow is never noticed when the water is still. Whenever there’s a wave, a chemical reaction occurs that causes this color on the water’s surface.

These types of algae have bloomed more recently along the Virginia coastline, according to Allie Hobgood of the Virginia Aquarium. Prior to 2007, Hobgood says they were more common in the southern Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Now, it’s become more of an annual thing off the coast of Virginia once the water cools to about 77°F. The nutrient-rich water off our coastline can also draw these types of algae toward the area, thanks to things like farming, fertilizing, etc.

This particular species of algae can be linked to harmful algae blooms. These can be toxic to different types of marine life. However, they are not known to be harmful to humans. The increased presence of this species is a concern because it could have a negative effect on the shellfish population in the Chesapeake Bay region.

About the Author:

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.