WEST HOLLYWOOD—The pungent odor that has dominated West Hollywood recently is caused by ‘red tides’, as reported by WEHOville on Sunday, May 10.

Red tides are blooms of a certain type of microscopic and single-celled plants called ‘phytoplankton’, according to UCSD’s Sea Grant California. The phytoplankton which cause red tides are called ‘dinoflagellates’.

WEHOville noted that West Hollywood residents have been trying to understand what the scent is:  “We have noticed a foul odor on Clinton Street between Orlando and Croft, has anyone else had a similar issue in the area?” asked a TriWest neighborhood resident in a post on the Nextdoor website

Several neighbors responded; one said “I noticed that too during one of my walks! I thought it might be a dead rat or something.” Another mentioned that “I called the police.” Sepi Shyne guessed the cause correctly, saying that “I think it’s the smell of the red tide heading inland.”

UCSD’s Latz Laboratory in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography claims that the “pungent smell” indicates the “breakdown of organic material.” On May 4, the Laboratory reported that “the sulfury odor is intense; we smelled it 1 1/2 miles inland.” Ocean breezes drag the odor towards land.

SeaGrant claims that red tides are a global phenomenon, but are most commonly found between Santa Barbara and San Diego in California. They are most abundant from February-March and August-September, and can last any amount of time from just a few days to several months. Nutrient and sunlight availability, competition, grazing, and water temperature are a few factors which influence the lifespan of a plankton bloom – dinoflagellates favour warmer, calmer waters.