California’s Bizarre Glowing Waves Need To Be Seen To Be Believed

In a sight that seems straight out of Avatar, a bizarre natural phenomenon is causing the evening surf to glow along parts of Southern California.

Is it magic? Nope, it’s just algae. A massive bloom of bioluminescent phytoplankton has spread from San Diego to Encinitas over the course of the week, causing these otherworldly blue waves to crash against the shore. Onlookers describe the waves as looking like surges of neon crashing onto the sand.

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Specifically, the waves are filled with critters called dinoflagellates. The plankton light up with a striking blue shimmer when they’re tumbled about by the surf. The phenomenon is actually called “red tide,” and is a symptom of an overgrowth of algae that produces toxins with harmful effects on people, fish, and other marine life.

The last time glowing waves graced California shores on such a scale was in 2013. It’s a shame that this breathtakingly blue display is actually a sign of troubled waters.

Check out this video from YouTube user Peter Kraugh for a glimpse of what these waves look like in action.