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How bad is red tide? NOAA scientists create index to quantify it

It's a question we ask every summer when the smell of rotten fish takes over the beaches: how bad is red tide? Researchers have made a scale to tell you.

Summer in Florida means sunshine, humidity, and — especially recently, dealing with red tide. When blooms are bad, this means avoiding certain beaches and checking levels and wind directions before hitting the beach.

But what is "bad" for red tide?

Now, researchers can give you a definitive answer. Up until recently, there has been no standardized way to measure individual blooms and their impacts.

Scientists looked at red tide samples along Florida's Gulf Coast. Cell counts from Karenia brevis, a harmful algal bloom species that causes red tide, were taken to create a bloom severity index and a respiratory irritation index.

Dr. Rick Stumpf is an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He helped develop an index for measuring red tide. He explained the severity will be measured on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the worst red tide conditions the state has seen.