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Algal Bloom near the surf zone, Fraser Island, Queensland: 6 November 2012

This ALGAL BLOOM extended almost continuously from northern Fraser Island to northern New South Wales on November 6, 2012. It attracted media attention on the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast beaches.

Then on 28-30 January 2013, Tropical Cyclone Oswald created storm conditions along the coast resulting in a furious surf creating a large volume of foam that was blown onto the beaches and lifted by the wind to plaster the facades of apartment buildings. Around the world people saw footage of a car emerging from beneath the foam to the surprise of police!! I expect someone was charged with dangerous driving!

One critical factor in the creation of the foam is the presence of organic matter (including protein and lipids) derived from the breakdown of the algae.

James Acker writes, " Foams seen on sandy beaches are likely not generated in situ. More commonly, a phytoplankton (algal) bloom offshore will dissolve a large amount of organic matter in seawater, and as this water is transported onshore by winds and then agitated in the surf zone, foams will form. Speaking of contaminants, if the bloom was a "red tide", the foam could contain toxins that could become aerosols. These toxins might cause irritation and other respiratory discomfort if inhaled. This phenomenon occasionally happens along the west coast of Florida." And may I add, along the surf coasts of eastern Australia.

Ian Stehbens

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  • Uploaded on March 17, 2013
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Ian Stehbens