Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring and Forecasting in the Gulf of Mexico

Content Type
User Story
Map projection displaying brevis bacteria concentrations over the Gulf of Mexico
Data Applications
Ecosystem Monitoring
Water Quality

Harmful algal blooms are a common occurrence in the Gulf of Mexico. Red tide blooms of the neurotoxin producing alga Karenia brevis are of particular concern. NOAA's National Ocean Service uses Coast Watch ocean color data along with cell counts and other environmental information to produce a Harmful Algal Blooms Observing System (HABSOS) and a Harmful Algal Bloom Operational Forecast System (HAB-OFS).

HABSOS is a combined data product distributed on an ArcGIS powered map. The system serves as a harmful algal bloom data resource for managers, scientists and the public. CoastWatch data available for visualization in HABSOS include chlorophyll-3 day composite data and chlorophyll anomaly data.

Global Map projection displaying chlorophyll-a concentrations over the Gulf of Mexico
CoastWatch chlorophyll 3-day composite viewed on NOAA's HABSOS.


HAB-OFS produces bulletins and condition reports to inform Gulf of Mexico communities about Karenia brevis blooms. The bulletins provides information about Karenia brevis abundance and risk based on analysis of data including CoastWatch ocean color satellite imagery, field observations, buoy data, public health reports, models and forecasts. The condition reports provide a 3-4 day forecast of the potential levels of respiratory irritation from Karenia brevis blooms.

Map projection displaying brevis bacteria concentrations over the Gulf of Mexico
CoastWatch chlorophyll satellite image with possible K. brevis bloom areas shown by red polygon(s). Source: 30 November 2015 HAB-OFS Bulletin.


References and Related Reading

  • Cannizzaro, J., K. Carder, F. Chen, C. Heil, and G. Vargo. 2008. A novel technique for detection of the toxic dinoflagellate Karenia brevis in the Gulf of Mexico from remotely sensed ocean color data. Continental Shelf Research 28: 137-158.
  • Kirkpatrick B., L.E. Fleming, D. Squicciarini, L.C. Backer, R. Clark., W. Abraham, J. Benson, Y.S. Cheng, D. Johnson, R. Pierce, J. Zaias, G.D. Bossart, and D.G. Baden. 2004. Literature review of Florida red tide: implications for human health effects. Harmful Algae 3: 99-115.
  • Pierce, R. H., and M. S. Henry. 2008. Harmful algal toxins of the Florida red tide (Karenia brevis): Natural chemical stressors in South Florida coastal ecosystems. Ecotoxicology 17 (7): 623-631.
  • Stumpf, R.P., M.E. Culver, P.A. Tester, M. Tomlinson, G.J. Kirkpatrick, B.A. Pederson, E. Truby, V. Ransibrahmanakul, and M. Soracco. 2003. Monitoring Karenia brevis blooms in the Gulf of Mexico using satellite ocean color imagery and other data. Harmful Algae 2: 147-160.
  • Stumpf, R.P., M.C. Tomlinson, J.A. Calkins, B. Kirkpatrick, K. Fisher, K. Nierenberg, R. Currier, and T.T. Wynne. 2009. Skill assessment for an operational algal bloom forecast system. Journal of Marine Systems 76: 151-161.
  • Tomlinson, M.C., T.T. Wynne, and R.F. Stumpf. 2009. An evaluation of remote sensing techniques for enhanced detection of the toxic dinoflagellate Karenia brevis. Remote Sensing of the Environment 113: 598-609.
  • Wynne, T.T., R.P. Stumpf, M.C. Tomlinson, V. Ransibrahmanakul, and T.A. Villareal. 2005. Detecting Karenia brevis blooms and algal resuspension in the western Gulf of Mexico with satellite ocean color imagery. Harmful Algae 4: 992-1003.