The waves on the Southern California coast are a breath-taking electric blue at night. But the air they have been sending our way is a retching red.
Red isn’t the color of the air. But “red tide” is the term used to describe the stinky bloom of dinoflagellates, microscopic plants that give off a red color when they concentrate in the water on our coastline. (A color that turns to blue at night).
On social media, West Hollywood residents have been asking what that foul odor is all about. “We have noticed a foul odor on Clinton Street between Orlando and Croft, has anyone else had a similar issue in the area?” asked one resident in the TriWest neighborhood in a post on the Nextdoor website. “I noticed that too during one of my walks! I thought it might be a dead rat or something,” said another neighbor in response. “I called the police,” said another resident.
“I think it’s the smell of the red tide heading inland,” said Sepi Shyne, who got it right.
The UC San Diego’s SeaGrant California website explains what we, residents of a city that’s 10 miles from the nearest beach, are smelling.
According to SeaGrant, red tides occur all around the world but in California are seen most often between Santa Barbara and San Diego. They occur most often in February and March and in August and September. The plankton bloom that shades the sea red can last from days to months.
“Nontoxic red tides in California have been reported to cause irritation of the eyes, mouth, and throat, as well as cold and flu-like symptoms,” reports SeaGrant (perhaps another reason to wear that face mask). “Even though most red tides do not produce toxins they do change the chemical composition of the seawater where they are occurring, which can affect humans that come in contact with a bloom.”
The breeze from the ocean will continue to push the smell of the red tide our way for a while longer. There is not estimate of when it will end.