Foam swept in as gales hit Scotland

media captionStorms are battering parts of Scotland causing flooding, road closures and closing some schools

It is an incredible image that people have been quick to share on social networking sites.

The high winds sweeping the country forced foam from the North Sea onto land at Aberdeen's Footdee area at the beach on Tuesday morning.

The spume left cars, streets and houses looking as if they had been hit by a sudden snow storm.

BBC Scotland's Steven Duff, who filmed the scene for Reporting Scotland, said: "It was quite an amazing phenomenon."

Local resident Lindsay Gordon said: "I have lived in Footdee since just before 2000, you get storms of course.

"You could tell by the sounds this was a serious storm, the windows were rattling.

"I looked out of the window and the North Sea was advancing toward us. Luckily it was just foam."

While it left many with a messy clean-up operation, Bailey the dog was filmed enjoying frolicking in the foam.

"The sea is acting like a washing machine," said Prof Christopher Todd, marine ecologist at the Scottish Oceans Institute at the University of St Andrews.

He said the easterly gales battering the Aberdeenshire coast had led to an "incredible amount of wave action".

Prof Todd said that the air had "piled into the water" and mixed up with organic material.

He said: "It is likely there are phytoplankton cells and they produce a lot of mucus which when whipped up can form this foam."

Most phytoplankton are too small to be seen but they can form an algal bloom in the spring and, to a lesser extent, in the autumn.

The sea foam - or spume - can be quite "stable" when formed and can last a significant period of time, Prof Todd said.

A Marine Scotland spokesman said: "Sea foam is created by the interaction of sea water movement and plant plankton residues.

"Today's foam at Footdee is likely to be due to the extreme rain and wind, coupled with the autumn phytoplankton bloom and the fact wind direction is pushing foam ashore at high tide.

"The foam is a natural product and we wouldn't anticipate any health concerns."

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