Special tool used to forecast respiratory effects from red tide

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

We saw several dead fish in the area of Lighthouse Beach Park on Sanibel Wednesday, but they are being quickly cleaned up off the beach.

A group on the island provides the data needed to forecast the irritation beachgoers might face due to red tide.

“We want people to be able to go to the beach safely and to not avoid the beach when they could go,” said Rick Stumpf, a NOAA Oceanographer.

That’s why the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) forecasts respiratory irritation from red tide.

NOAA is a group funding the tool and researching to make it better.

“That funding is going into helping GCOOS to develop this new website and distribute this capability for improved monitoring, bringing in citizens, citizen volunteers, and also to forecast respiratory irritation,” Stumpf said.

On the island, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation shares data that’s combined with wind forecast and satellite imagery to alert beachgoers of potential discomfort.

It’s thanks in part to a GCOOS HABscope, which uses facial recognition technology to find red tide cells.

“If it was just our beaches we had data for, then, people would — they’d want to select another beach, and they don’t know what other beaches to go to,” said Richard Bartleson, a research scientist with SCCF. “If we have more HABscopes along more beaches, then, that would give them an opportunity to pick a different beach.”

To check out the respiratory forecast tool, visit the HABscope Forecasts page on the GCOOS website. It includes more than 20 beaches along the Gulf Coast.

NOTE: The tool HABscope is not an official forecast. Location and timing of irritation can unexpectedly change.

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