WFSU’s Jessica Meszaros recently interviewed Richard Stumpf, an algal bloom researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), regarding the continued rising levels of a red tide bloom that has been growing along Florida’s west coast.
Red tide blooms kill marine life and cause respiratory issues for people. Stumpf explains red tides are created and maintained by several factors.
The Florida bloom is spread by an organism known as Karenia Brevis. Stumpf states that these blooms are naturally occurring. Records suggest that they have been around since at least the mid- to late-1800s.
Stumpf mentions two problems that help the red tide algae to thrive. Generally, algae blooms develop in the fall and gets pushed away by winds and dispersed into the Gulf of Mexico.
However, this year, wind patterns didn’t cease until February, so the algae did not get dispersed and the weather shifted and caused the blooms to move back to shore.
Further, Karenia Brevis uses nitrogen from many human and natural sources, which help the blooms to continue to grow.
Stumpf stresses four possible mechanisms that might bring an end red tide growth. The blooms could (1) move out the way physically once fronts start coming through in Florida. The algae bloom could (2) run out of nutrients, (3) be replaced by other algae if the weather is more beneficial for those algae to grow, and (4) it could die from a plague.
In moving forward, Stumpf says we should take note of human and natural factors, we should understand how red tide blooms and when the blooms end, and we need to do a “better job of forecasting conditions” when blooms are abundant.