Here's How a 5,000-Mile-Wide Seaweed Blob Could Affect Your Beach Trip
A giant seaweed bloom is heading for Florida.
Soon, many Florida beaches are going to have a bit of an odor issue on their hands. That's because a 5,000-mile-wide blob of seaweed is drifting directly toward the state. Already, some beaches in the Florida Keys have begun to get some of the seaweed, which is called sargassum.
"Every year there's a cycle in the Atlantic Ocean but in the past few years on average, we have seen way more sargassum," Dr. Chuanmin Hu, a professor of oceanography at the University of South Florida told News Channel 8. "Most of the time sargassum in the ocean is a good thing, it's a habitat for many animals."
The Florida Health department describes sargassum as "a type of brown seaweed that is washing up on beaches in Florida." Once it arrives on shores, the seaweed begins rotting and emits hydrogen sulfide, which smells like raw eggs and can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. Those with asthma and other breathing illnesses can also be more sensitive to it.
The seaweed is arriving in the area at the same time that the region is also dealing with red tide, which arrived earlier this year and causes rashes and breathing problems for humans and animals. While red tide can pose a direct risk to health, the seaweed blob isn't quite as dangerous. According to the Florida Health department, sargassum itself isn't a safety concern, but because the seaweed is home to so much ocean life, small animals living in the blob could cause skin rashes and small bites.
The increase in sargassum can be attributed to warmer oceans, which sargassum relies on. At the time of publication, the direct path for the seaweed has not been determined.
"We can get an idea of when it will be fairly close," Brian Barnes, an assistant research professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, told USA Today. "In general, everything flows west. It will come across the Central Atlantic and into the Caribbean, and into the Gulf of Mexico through the straits of Florida."
Considering the blob is nearly twice the size of the continental US, the seaweed is likely to affect a wide swath of beaches in Florida and the Caribbean. While the seaweed isn't seriously harmful, the smell and size of the blob is likely to sour the mood for any beach days once it washes ashore.
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