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Identifying Origin and Mechanism of Texas Red Tide

A study funded by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science has tentatively identified the source and control mechanism of red tides (Karenia brevis) along the Texas coast.

The research, led by Texas A&M University, incorporates a suite of linked models (e.g., biological–physical), combined with data from drifting sensors, satellites, and an automated underwater microscope called a “FlowCytobot.” The modeling shows circulation caused by seasonal winds along the Texas coast, not cell growth, as the primary control for presence or absence of blooms. Modeling also suggests that Texas Karenia brevis blooms originate in the southern Gulf of Mexico near the Bay of Campeche and are carried north by currents. Field observations are being conducted to verify model results.

The origin and cause of Texas red tides have been an enigma until recently partly due to their less frequent occurrence (every 2–5 years) and subsequent opportunities to investigate when compared with other areas (e.g., Florida red tides occur almost every year).

The research is published in the journal Limnology and Oceanography: Fluids & Environments.

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