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Weather Service Debuts Florida Red Tide Alerts

As part of a pilot initiative known as “beach hazard statements,” NOAA’s National Weather Service in Tampa Bay began to issue red tide warnings to beachgoers in an area where a bloom  of algae is responsible for causing fish kills and breathing problems in people. While the announcement is new, the forecasts themselves are well established.

Developed by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, the forecasts identify whether or not a bloom of algae is likely to contain toxic species, where it is, how big it is, where it’s headed, and if it could become more severe in the near future. Like weather forecasts, this system provides officials advance warning to test and close beaches and shellfish beds more precisely and for a shorter period of time.

Around 2000, the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services took them over and issued them on a regular basis as the scientists refined them. In a meeting between NOAA and Florida officials last August, National Weather Service participants agreed to add the red tide forecast to a new feature expected to provide citizens and tourists with a range of nontraditional weather as well as non-weather dangers they might face at their favorite sun-and-surf spot.

Bonus: Here’s the full story about how these bloom forecasts work.

USA Today wrote about how the close cooperation between NOAA offices led to  this recent service to the people of southwest Florida and tourists to the area.

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