John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Everyone’s favorite algal bloom slimes it up in the Atlantic.
Morbid-minded children who wish to befriend a slime monster need do no more than go to the Jersey Shore and start paddling. Swirling out in the cold, briny water is an immense, gooey presence, hundreds of miles long and delightfully colored of pureed gummy worms.
Yes, it’s the return of New Jersey’s famous algal blob, last spotted in July gloppin’ it up from Sandy Hook to Atlantic City, where it was turned away for dress-code violations. The living slick is a reoccurring phenomenon off this part of the coast, and can cause authorities to worry about its potential for contaminating shellfish, depending on its constituent organisms. (No word yet on whether this one is toxic.)
Here’s a rather poetic description from NASA, whose Aqua satellite spotted the bloom on May 31:
On that day, lines of small clouds hang over the greening land of New Jersey (north) and the Delmarva Peninsula, land shared between Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. The waters of the Delaware Bay (north) and the Chesapeake Bay appear dull with sediment and phytoplankton. The largest phytoplankton bloom floats in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey, but swirls of color can be seen in almost all the ocean waters.
Large phytoplankton blooms are common in this region each spring, often coinciding—perhaps incidentally—with the movement of horseshoe crabs onto the beaches of the region in a massive spring breeding ritual, and with the stop-over of tens of thousands of migrating shorebirds which feed on the crab eggs. Springtime on and near the shores of the Mid-Atlantic is a dynamic, vital season.