A giant algae bloom – roughly the size of Mexico – takes over the Arabian Sea twice a year and this massive green patch from Gulf of Oman all the way to India has been attributed to climate change.
Scientists say that this bloom is caused by new conditions that enable the microorganisms to thrive. Climate change has been blamed for these conditions. The algae bloom was all invisible 30 years ago in the Gulf of Oman, but the bloom have increased substantially over the last three decades to the extent that they are now even visible from satellites.
Algal blooms aren’t rare occurrence and they have been wreaking havoc across the planet. Algae can paralyze fish, clog their gills, and absorb enough oxygen to suffocate them. Whales, turtles, dolphins and manatees have died, poisoned by algal toxins, in the Atlantic and Pacific. These toxins have infiltrated whole marine food chains and have, in rare cases, killed people, according to the U.N. science agency.
In the Great Lakes of North America, Thailand and the Seychelles, the algae bloom green. In Florida they are red, in the North Atlantic they are chalky white, and in Puget Sound they are orange. The Irish call it the “sea ghost,” and the Taiwanese refer to the blooms as “blue tears.”
While the blooms may seem attractive in images captured by satellites, they are less attractive up close, where it can be “almost guacamole-like” in some lakes. One of the worst things about them beyond the damage they do to the local ecosystems is their smell and the looks – both are bad.
Scientists based at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University trace Oman’s blooms to melting ice in the Himalayas. Less ice has raised temperatures in South Asia and strengthened the Indian Ocean’s southwest monsoon. As this weather front moves across the Arabian Sea every year, it churned up oxygen-poor water thick with nutrients that have fueled the rise of a 1.2-billion-year-old algae called noctiluca scintillans. The algae blooms can also clog the intake pipes of the desalinization plants that produce up to 90 percent of the Oman’s fresh water.