HERMOSA BEACH, CA - APRIL 25: Bioluminescent waves glow off the coast of Hermosa Beach, CA, Saturday, April 25, 2020. The phenomenon is associated with a red tide, or an algae bloom, filled with dinoflagellates which react with bioluminescence when jostled by the moving water. During the daytime, due to the pigmentation of the dinoflagellates, the water can turn a deep red, brown, or orange color, giving red tides their name.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

1211044200

HERMOSA BEACH, CA - APRIL 25: Bioluminescent waves glow off the coast of Hermosa Beach, CA, Saturday, April 25, 2020. The phenomenon is associated with a red tide, or an algae bloom, filled with dinoflagellates which react with bioluminescence when jostled by the moving water. During the daytime, due to the pigmentation of the dinoflagellates, the water can turn a deep red, brown, or orange color, giving red tides their name.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Photo by: Jay L. Clendenin

Jay L. Clendenin

California’s Ocean is Neon - and It’s All Natural!

The California coastline is glowing and it’s not a trick of the imagination. Nature is putting on a show and it’s all thanks to some of the smallest organisms on the planet.

May 01, 2020

Bioluminescent plankton are lighting up beaches from Baja all the way up to Los Angeles. These tiny, single-celled organisms are called dinoflagellates. When they become concentrated in large groups, they discolor the ocean water, resulting in the red tides that are visible during the day. California is currently experiencing a sizable bloom of these plankton, which is causing the amazing bioluminescent phenomenon at night.

We're sorry, there seems to be an issue playing this video. Please refresh the page or try again in a moment. If you continue to have issues, please contact us here.

What Causes Bioluminescent Waves?
Loading Video...

Let It Glow

The glow emitted by the dinoflagellates is meant to be a defense mechanism to ward off predators and attract other animals that would prey on their predators. Large amounts of movement in the water trigger the plankton to light up which is why crashing waves and playful dolphins look otherworldly.

SAN CLEMENTE, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 30: A surfer rides on a bioluminescent wave at the San Clemente pier on April 30, 2020 in San Diego, California.

1222152512

SAN CLEMENTE, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 30: A surfer rides on a bioluminescent wave at the San Clemente pier on April 30, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

Photo by: Joe Scarnici

Joe Scarnici

SAN CLEMENTE, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 30: A surfer rides on a bioluminescent wave at the San Clemente pier on April 30, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

Rise in Red Tides

Red tides are difficult to predict and can last anywhere between one week to one month. According to scientist Michael Latz from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego, red tide events are increasing locally and globally, but more research is needed to understand exactly why.

For now, the coast continues to light up at night, and Mother Nature proves once again, that she is the ultimate showstopper.

Next Up

Fossils Found Under Greenland’s Ice Sheet

Leaf and twig fossils are discovered to be “perfectly preserved” under Greenland’s ice sheet, fascinating scientists and leading to further discovery.

Meet Brood X: Billions of Cicadas Emerging Soon Within Eastern U.S.

Do you hear it? If you live in the Eastern U.S., it's likely the noisy entrance of the cicadas from Brood X as they emerge for the first time in 17 years.

Climate Week 2021 Shines a Light on the Climate Crisis

Every September since 2009, Climate Week coincides with the UN General Assembly in New York City. Action is required to halt and attempt to reverse the rapid and catastrophic deterioration of the world's climate. The planet is in crisis and this year The Explorers Club is spotlighting experts in the field to bring awareness to how we can create the change we need to improve the future of the planet.

'Ice Volcanoes’ Burst Along Lake Michigan

Past due! Lake Michigan’s winter wonders came a bit late this year. Do we blame climate change for this?

Monarch Butterfly Migration is Threatened by Climate Change

The monarch butterfly migration is at risk due to climate change and other environmental factors. This is how one reserve in Mexico is trying to save the day.

Rediscovered in Ocean's Twilight Zone: the Short-Nosed Sea Snake

The short-nosed sea snake was recently rediscovered in the ocean’s twilight zone, 200 feet below the surface. Scientists are furthering their research with genetic testing.

Animals Perished in Texas Winter Snowstorm

Hundreds of helpless animals remained unprotected and froze to death in light of Texas’ winter catastrophe.

Bird Enthusiasts Take Over Social Media for #BlackBirdersWeek

Because nature lovers are just as diverse as nature itself.

Brazil’s President Could Be Charged Over Amazon Destruction

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro could face international criminal charges in the Hague over his part in the destruction of the country’s Amazon rainforest.

The Acrobats of the Skunk World

These seven species of spotted skunks can do handstands, but that’s not the only secret they’re hiding.