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Study: Loop Current may help scientists predict red tide blooms

A new oceanographic study of the Loop Current confirms scientific thought that the warm water incursion into the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea that squeezes between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula may hold the key to predicting the strengths of red tide blooms and where they end up.

The study, undertaken by the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, was released last month and says the Loop Current “plays an important role in sustaining Florida red tide blooms.”

It also suggests the position of the current at certain times of the year “can serve as an indicator of whether the algal bloom will be sustained and provide warning of possible hazardous red tide conditions in coastal areas.”

If the Loop Current stays to the south and doesn’t go far north into the Gulf, it drives deep-water nutrients toward the surface. Those nutrients feed fast-growing algae blooms, which out-compete red tide algae. The result is little or no red tide along the Florida coast, said Robert H. Weisberg, professor of physical oceanography at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg.