Deadly Red Tide Linked to Ocean Current

First Posted: Jan 14, 2016 08:19 AM EST

An ocean current in the Gulf of Mexico may be linked to the deadly red tide. Scientists have discovered a major ocean current may help sustain Florida red tide blooms.

Florida red tide is a harmful algal bloom that's produced by the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis. It can cause respiratory impairment in both humans and marine life. It's also responsible for shellfish poisoning.

In this latest study, the researchers collected data of Karenia brevis concentrations, river outflows, wind conditions, and sea surface heights in order to study the physical conditions during periods of large Karenia brevis blooms and periods of no bloom. More specifically, the scientists looked at the continuation of a bloom and not the formation of a red tide bloom.

The scientists found that when the Loop Current is in a northern position, it allows a bloom to continue when other conditions are favorable. But when in a southern position, a bloom can't be sustained.

The Loop Current enters the Gulf of Mexico through the Yucatan Straits. It's actually 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 Graze Maze, lead author of the new study, in a news release.

The findings reveal a bit more about the red tide. This is especially important when calculation conditions for the future.

The findings are published in the journal Harmful Algae.

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