In very concerning discovery, Florida officials have confirmed a rare red tide on the state’s Atlantic coast on Monday after beach goers started complaining of coughing and itchy throats after going in the waters off Palm Beach County over the weekend.
The amount discovered thus far is nothing compared to the Gulf Coast where thousands of marine animals have perished due to the toxic outbreak.
“They picked up concentrations that are high enough,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration algae expert Richard Stumpf. “There’s obviously more data to be collected.”
In a press release, Florida officials said they could not yet confirm the exact amounts. In a official press release, Florida officials stated that the state was collecting samples where visitors complained of symptoms.
“Red tides on the East coast of Florida are extremely rare. They can even subside and then reoccur,” the statement said. “The duration of a bloom in near shore Florida waters depends on physical and biological conditions that influence its growth and persistence, including sunlight, nutrients and salinity, as well as the speed and direction of wind and water currents.”
The discovery of red tide on the Atlantic side of Florida is due to the water continuing to warm as a result of warming global temperatures.
No fish kills have been reported on the east coast, although Palm Beach and Martin county officials closed several beaches while they investigated.
Stumpf, who tracks harmful algae blooms using NOAA satellite imagery, said hints of the tide were detected near the Marquesas Islands east of the Dry Tortugas in August and September. But around the Tortugas, where waters are much clearer, the algae can live in waters as deep as 65 feet, making it difficult for satellites to see.
It’s likely that the Gulf of Mexico’s Loop Current picked up the algae and swept it south and then up the east coast.
Once it moved up the coast, an eddy off the Gulf Stream or winds could have blown it ashore, said University of Miami algae expert Larry Brand. It also would have likely missed much of Miami-Dade where the Gulf Stream flows further from the coast.
The last time a red tide occurred on the east coast was in 2007, Stumpf said. It appears rarely on the state’s east coast because the saltwater algae that cause it, Karenia brevis, live at the bottom of the Florida Shelf off the state’s west coast, causing regular blooms along the Gulf Coast between the spring and fall.
This year though has been a different beast has the red tide has worsened over the summer and increased to levels that many have not seen.