If you look at ocean water in a clear glass, you’ll see that it’s not clear but full of tiny particles. Seawater contains dissolved salts, proteins, fats, dead algae, detergents and other pollutants. If you shake this glass of ocean water vigorously, small bubbles will form on the surface of the liquid.
Sea foam forms under similar conditions – but on a much grander scale – when storms roll in and the ocean is agitated by wind and waves. The creation of sea foam can occur often in gargantuan proportions.
The Sunshine Coast, located in South East Queensland Australia, in recent years bear witness to one of the biggest sea foam events to grace Australia shores blanketing the town and reaking havoc on beaches. Just check out this insane amount of sea foam making it’s way through the streets of the cosatal town.
Most sea foam is not harmful to humans and is often an indication of a productive ocean ecosystem. But when large harmful algal blooms decay near shore, there are potential for impacts to human health and the environment. During blooms popping sea foam bubbles are one way that algal toxins become airborne. The resulting aerosol can irritate the eyes of beach goers and poses a health risk for those with asthma or other respiratory conditions.
Scientists studying the cause of a seabird die-offs off California in 2007 and in the Pacific Northwest in 2009 also found a soap-like foam from a decaying Akashiwo sanguinea algae bloom had removed the waterproofing on feathers, making it harder for birds to fly. This led to the onset of fatal hypothermia in many birds.