San Diego Beaches Look Resplendent With A Deep Blue Bioluminescent Glow Created By Dinoflagellates

At night, the crashing waves on San Diego beaches are deeply imbued with a sparkly neon color.

San Beaches have lit up with a deep blue bioluminescent glow.
MKnighton / Getty Images

At night, the crashing waves on San Diego beaches are deeply imbued with a sparkly neon color.

If you find yourself walking across a San Diego beach at night, you may notice that it has taken on a completely new look over the past couple of days and that it is now bathed in a deep blue bioluminescent glow, courtesy of the red tide that has been affecting this area of the Pacific Ocean recently.

UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Michael Latz explained that after surfers and others had noticed the beautiful change in the ocean’s color, the water was tested and was shown to contain a large number of dinoflagellates, as the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

“Based on analysis of a water sample provided by Scripps collector Phil Zerofski, the water contains dense numbers of dinoflagellates, especially Ceratium falcatiforme and Lingulodinium polyedra, As L. polyedra (formerly Gonyaulax polyedra) is well known for its bioluminescent displays, there may be some nice light shows tonight.”

While it is not known exactly how far the bioluminescent beaches currently stretch in San Diego, bystanders have reported the blue glow all the way from Encinitas to La Jolla Shores, according to Latz.

This phenomenon is one which hasn’t occurred since September 2013, making residents and visitors excited to get out to beaches everywhere and observe the bioluminescence for themselves.

Photographer Stephen Bay was one such person who decided that this was an event that had to be captured on film. He likened the neon sheen of the Pacific Ocean along Torrey Pines to that of a lightsaber, as CBS News reports, and was pleased to describe how he felt these were Southern California’s own special Northern Lights.

“It kind of looked like the color of a light saber. It really was a bright blue color that was just fantastic to look at. I was thinking, this is SoCal’s equivalent of a Northern Lights. Just having natural phenomena where the lights are glowing and the water is lit up – it’s amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Underwater Paparazzi’s Jami Leslie Feldman concurred with Bay, suggesting that the beautiful bioluminescent beaches of San Diego looked almost as if they had been sprinkled with magical fairy dust.

“It’s like fairy dust. Shut your lights off at night and it’s sparkling all around you.”

With the beaches of San Diego filled with such gorgeous bioluminescent dinoflagellates thanks to the recent red tide, the time to view this phenomenon is now as scientists are unable to predict exactly when an event like this will occur again.