Oregon Officials: Look for More Sea Foam on the Coast
(Oregon Coast) – 'Tis the season for serious sea foam – or at least it's winding up that way a bit early. These recent storms have brought on bunches of the white blobs, which usually show up more in storm season and spring than in late September – normally considered part of the “Second Summer.” (Above: blobs of sea foam at Lincoln City).
Officials at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) said the sudsy stuff is rather prevalent right now. Strong winds and big waves from these recent storms injected air into the ocean and created what ODFW called “mountains of sea foam.”
“The air bubbles in the presence of dissolved organic matter is what causes sea foam to form,” ODFW said. “The organic matter is mostly made of dead phytoplankton. The protein from the phytoplankton gives the water enough surface tension to form bubbles.”
Surf and winds cause the bubbles to pile up in suds-like masses that are often blown up on the beach. (Above: blobs of sea foam at Cannon Beach).
ODFW noted that many people visiting the Oregon coast tend to make the erroneous assumption this is some sort of pollution. It is not. In fact, it's the sign of a healthy ocean.
“Although this may look worrisome, it is a perfectly natural process that helps the ocean purify its self,” ODFW said. “Viewed under a microscope, sea foam contains the extraordinarily beautiful glass-like skeletons of the phytoplankton.” (Above: blobs of sea foam at Manzanita).
Often, after storms and a day or two of decent sun – like what is happening right now – this may increase your chances of seeing the famed “glowing sand” phenomenon on the Oregon coast. This can be seen at night and shows itself as strange little sparks of blue/green in the wet sand.
The startling, stunning sight is caused by a form of tiny phytoplankton that are bioluminescent – like fireflies. You must find a dark beach with no light interference to see it.
More Oregon coast science here, and more photos of foam below.
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