Incredible bioluminescent waves create stunning scenes on California beaches

Incredible bioluminescent waves have been creating remarkable scenes at Southern California's beaches.

The phenomenon is caused by dinoflagellates, microscopic marine plankton. “Occasionally they are found in high concentrations, resulting in red tides, so called because the high abundance of organisms discolors the water,” explains the Scripps Institution of Oceanography on its website. “If the dinoflagellates are luminescent, there can be spectacular displays of bioluminescence at night.”

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A surfer rides on a bioluminescent wave at the San Clemente pier on April 30, 2020 in San Diego, California.

A surfer rides on a bioluminescent wave at the San Clemente pier on April 30, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

The striking blue nighttime waves have generated plenty of buzz on social media.

“#USCG Marine Safety and Security Team LA/LB got a great view of bioluminescent plankton as their boat churned up a light show!,” tweeted the U.S. Coast Guard.

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A strong Red tide sees Pacific Ocean waters turn a glowing bioluminescent Blue, as well as drawing the attention of curious Los Angelenos, despite Coronavirus stay-at-home orders and closed beaches, in Playa Del Rey, CA, USA, on May 7, 2020.(Photo by John Fredricks/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A strong Red tide sees Pacific Ocean waters turn a glowing bioluminescent Blue, as well as drawing the attention of curious Los Angelenos, despite Coronavirus stay-at-home orders and closed beaches, in Playa Del Rey, CA, USA, on May 7, 2020.(Photo by John Fredricks/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Newport Beach-based photographer Patrick Coyne also captured phenomenal footage of dolphins swimming in the bioluminescent waters. “Last night was truly one of the most magical nights of my life,” he wrote on Instagram.

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On Friday, CBS Los Angeles reported that police in Manhattan Beach will be increasing their patrols this weekend in response to the bioluminescent phenomenon, which has drawn significant visitors in recent weeks. LA County beaches, which were closed amid the coronavirus crisis, reopened with restrictions on May 13.

On its website, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography notes that the cellular regulation of dinoflagellate bioluminescence is complex and only partially understood. However, the luminescent chemistry is ultimately caused by a drop in pH, or or an increase in acidity, due to an influx of protons within the cell.