Ocean current in Gulf of Mexico linked to red tide

January 12, 2016
Toxic Karenia brevis blooms (commonly known as Florida red tides) occur often on the West Florida Shelf. These harmful algal blooms are hazardous to marine life as well as to humans (through neurotoxic shellfish poisoning or aerosolized toxins, which cause respiratory distress). Credit: P.Schmidt, Charlotte Sun

A new study found that a major ocean current in the Gulf of Mexico plays an important role in sustaining Florida red tide blooms. The University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science research team suggest that the position of the Loop Current can serve as an indicator of whether the algal bloom will be sustained, and provide warning of possible hazardous red tide conditions in coastal areas.

Florida is a produced by the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis that causes respiratory impairment in humans and marine life, and is responsible for shellfish poisoning.

The researchers collected data of Karenia brevis concentrations, river outflows, wind , and sea surface heights to study the physical conditions during periods of large Karenia brevis blooms and periods of no bloom. This research looked at the continuation of a bloom and not the formation of a red tide bloom.

They found that when the Loop Current is in a northern position, it allow a bloom to continue when other conditions were favorable, but when in a southern position a bloom could not be sustained. The Loop Current, which enters the Gulf of Mexico through the Yucatan Straits, is one of the most important features in the Gulf ocean circulation system.

"Knowing the approximate position of the Loop Current can be an indicator if a bloom will be sustained, and provide a warning for possible hazardous conditions," said UM Rosenstiel School Ph.D. student Grace Maze, lead author of the study.

The study, titled "Historical Analysis of Environmental Conditions During Florida Red Tide" was published in the Dec. 2015 issue of the journal Harmful Algae.

Explore further: Massive 'Florida red tide' is now 90 miles long and 60 miles wide

Related Stories

When hungry, Gulf of Mexico algae go toxic

March 12, 2013

When Gulf of Mexico algae don't get enough nutrients, they focus their remaining energy on becoming more and more poisonous to ensure their survival, according to a new study by scientists from North Carolina State University ...

NOAA adds red tide alerts to Beach Hazards Statements

February 4, 2013

NOAA has added a new service to alert the public when red tides threaten human health at Tampa Bay area beaches. The new alert is timely since many of southwest Florida's beaches are experiencing or are under threat of red ...

Red tide off northwest Florida could hit economy

September 17, 2014

It's like Florida's version of The Blob. Slow moving glops of toxic algae in the northeast Gulf of Mexico are killing sea turtles, sharks and fish, and threatening the waters and beaches that fuel the region's economy.

Recommended for you

Climate change will drive stronger, smaller storms in US

December 5, 2016

The effects of climate change will likely cause smaller but stronger storms in the United States, according to a new framework for modeling storm behavior developed at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. ...

Extreme downpours could increase fivefold across parts of the US

December 5, 2016

At century's end, the number of summertime storms that produce extreme downpours could increase by more than 400 percent across parts of the United States—including sections of the Gulf Coast, Atlantic Coast, and the Southwest—according ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.