The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will make available online a forecast system for red tide in the Gulf of Mexico from the beginning of October. Red tide is a natural phenomenon caused by a population explosion, or bloom, of a single-celled alga called Karenia brevis (K. brevis), which gives off a powerful toxin. A bloom can render shellfish inedible, kill fish, birds and marine mammals, cause respiratory distress in humans and play havoc with tourism. The forecast system will produce information daily about the current status of red tide and forecasts at least twice a week.
NOAA has teamed up with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, the Florida Department of Agriculture, Mote Marine Laboratory and NOAA’s Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary on the project. Online red tide bulletins will be put together from satellite imagery, NOAA’s meteorological data and water samples. A NOAA expert, who will determine exactly where a red tide bloom is and where it is likely to go, will analyze the data. An important part of the forecast is satellite imagery, which shows patches of chlorophyll in the water.