How NOAA scientists can forecast red tide movement

Scientists study surface winds, ocean currents

By Candace Campos - Meteorologist

Karenia brevis blooms, also known as red tide, occur along the Gulf Coast almost every year between late summer and early fall. 

They are most commonly found along the central and southwestern coasts of the Sunshine State, between Clearwater and Sanibel Island, but may occur anywhere in the Gulf of Mexico.

With this yearly occurrence, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration release forecasts when the red tide is present.

[READ: Red tide: Everything you need to know about the outbreak in Florida

Before the tide reaches the coastline, NOAA scientists use satellite data over the Gulf of Mexico to pinpoint algal blooms and where they’re traveling to by observing surface winds and ocean currents. 

Red tides have been spotted as far north as Delaware, due to the strong Gulf Stream riding along Florida’s coast and up the Eastern Seaboard.

NOAA scientists also collect water samples out in the field, to gauge the intensity of each tidal event. 

Red tides produce toxins that can not only be harmful to marine life, but also cause respiratory issues and eye irritation to people when the algae becomes airborne.

[RELATED: Red tide and blue-green algae: What's the difference?]

Calculating the timing and intensity of these events helps forecasters predict the potential effects to beachgoers.  

Forecasts can be found at tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/hab. 

There you can find condition reports by selecting a specific area in the drop down menu.

Once you select your area, conditions will be color coded on a map breaking down the impacts for marine life and human respiratory irritation. 

According to NOAA’s website, the website is updated twice a week during a red tide bloom and additional updates are made if conditions change.

 

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