Every so often, when the conditions are just right, see the spectacular sight of sea foam on Cleveleys seafront. It varies from a few blobs, to a quivering mass several feet deep…
Sea Foam on Cleveleys Seafront
These photos and video are from Friday 13 November, 2015. An apt day for the foam to fly at Cleveleys! Of course we’ve had lots of similar incidents since, this is just the last one that Visit Cleveleys made a point of recording. One of the best vantage points to see this sight is at Rossall Beach, between The Venue and Rossall School.
This event was caused by the winds on the back end of the UK’s first named weather event, which was Storm Abigail. She certainly made for windy conditions here in Cleveleys and on the wider Fylde Coast.
High tide was around noon. By 11.30am when this video was taken it was already several feet deep.
When it gets like this it always carries on until several hours later when the tide has gone out and the foam eventually collapses.
This second clip (below) was taken at about 1.30pm, a good hour and a half after high tide.
Decaying algae in the water acts like a gel and holds the air bubbles in shape as they are blown up by the action of the wind and strong waves. The foam gets thick and, because it’s light, it blows like snowballs and masses on the paths, promenade and road. It’s quite a sight to see. This particular incident of sea foam on Cleveleys seafront made most of the national news and weather channels, including the BBC News at 6pm.
What Causes Sea Foam on Cleveleys Seafront?
Algae, like seaweed and smaller microscopic plants, dissolves in the seawater when it breaks down and decomposes. You might know that seaweed is what’s called an ‘alginate’ and that’s used frequently as a thickener in food.
Following periods of heavy rainfall the level of nutrients in the sea also increases (it washes off the land). The nutrients and dissolved organic matter act as a foaming agent. Have you noticed that there is more foam and scum forming along the edge of the tide after heavy rainfall?
Wind usually accompanies stormy, rainy weather and it creates turbulent sea with lots of waves. More bubbles are formed because of the extra nutrients in the water – they hold their shape because of the decaying algae. Together these two factors mean that lots and lots of foam is formed. Because it’s light it easily gets blown around.
Once the bubbles have collapsed they will continue to breakdown onshore (unless a good downpour follows!). This can create an unpleasant slime, which sometimes smells similar to sewage due to the release of sulphur compounds being released by the algae during decomposition. When it dries it leaves behind a salty and sandy residue, which washes off with heavy rain. Cars, clothes and windows all need a good washing afterwards!
The foam has been analysed in the past by the Environment Agency and found not to be harmful. The samples contained dead algal matter and no evidence of pollution.
It’s nothing to do with pollution or detergents, which was also confirmed by the Environment Agency tests.
Sea Foam on Cleveleys Seafront in Summer 2015
Sea foam on Cleveleys seafront doesn’t just happen in winter. If the right combination of conditions is present it can happen at any time of the year.
The clip below was filmed at high tide on 2 June in 2015. You can see the shivering mass gathering on the beach and then the wind blows the blobs about, just like snowballs!
The next clip below was filmed in December – from the warmth of the car!
You can see how the blobs of froth are blown off the beach, and because they hold their shape they can mount up into drifts which can be several feet deep. Have a look at the great photos on this page of our very own strange-but-true Cleveleys snow.
Anniversary of the Sinking of Riverdance
Ironically, on the fifth anniversary of the sinking of the Riverdance Ferry (31 January 2013) the storms blew with gusts about as strong as they get. High tide at lunch time on 30th and 31st created a spectacle for all to see.
As the tide comes in, the high white waves bash against the shore, and mechanical agitation froths up the surface to create foam. The foam creates a bigger and bigger mass that starts to blow about in the wind. The first sign is little snowball like blobs that fly high, followed by more and more and more…
As the tide comes in and the beach gets smaller, the froth is pushed off the beach onto the promenade pathway. The footpath soon becomes totally impassable with dense, deep, white quivering foam. The mass builds up so that it starts to blow over the top of the rear flood wall, and then it collects on the road and main promenade.
It’s quite a sight. It looks very strange, just like snow, and it’s a fascinating weather event to see.
Understandably, it draws sightseers every time that it happens. Just expect to clean your car and wash your clothes if you get caught in it, because when the residue dries it’s full of sand and salt.
Come to Cleveleys to see Sea Foam – the Eighth Wonder of the World!
A friend videoed Cleveleys Sea Foam and his clip (see it here) appeared on both Granada and BBC News.
By the time the story had run its course, photos and video had gone viral on YouTube, and on websites all around the world, including these that we know of:
The Huffington Post
Photos of Sea Foam on Cleveleys Seafront
It doesn’t matter how many times you see it, you can’t help but take a photo! Have a look at some of the sights from various years in this gallery (click/swipe left/right)
Find out More
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