Spring Break Stinker: 5,000-mile-wide blob of seaweed crawls toward Florida beaches

Brown clumps of fetid seaweed have already washed up on Florida’s beaches as a 5,000-mile-wide raft of sargassum crawls across the Caribbean. WESH and other outlets reported.

“Because of the size and scope, we’re calling it ‘Seaweed-ageddon,'” Peter Cranis, executive director of the Space Coast Tourism Office, told the outlet.

This year’s blob is so big it can be seen from space.

“What other areas have done is literally haul it off the beach with equipment to load it into dump trucks and take it off the beach,” Cranis also said, noting that central Florida hasn’t been hit as badly as others territories.

According to Cranis, it is “when” rather than “if” the fair is an important issue that matters.

The seaweed is a species of algae of the genus Sargassum. The algal “blob” is known as the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt. The belt is about twice as wide as in the United States.

“This is the new normal, and we have to adapt to it,” said Brian Lapointe, an oceanographer at Florida Atlantic University who has studied seaweed for decades Scientific American.

The algae problem, which has emerged earlier than usual this year, comes amid another, potentially more worrying concern, the toxic “red tide.” The red tide can cause significant health problems. The Florida Department of Health gave one alarm about it in February.

Sargassum that is still light is fresh and likely has small sea creatures inside. These small sea creatures can cause skin irritation and itching.

In addition, Sargassum produces when it decomposes hydrogen sulfide gas. The gas can cause eye, nose and throat irritation. People with asthma or other breathing problems may be more sensitive to it, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Both the Red Tide and Sargassum are associated with foul smells, but for different reasons. The red tide smothers marine life, which then washes ashore and emits a stench as it decomposes. Sargassum itself smells like rotten eggs as it washes up on the beach and rots.

University of South Florida oceanographer Chuanmin Hu, who has nearly two decades of experience studying the Sargassum mass, says this year’s seasonal peak is still too far away to predict.

Hu and his colleagues are using data collected by NASA satellites to track the total mass of Sargassum in the Atlantic on a monthly basis, the outlet explains.

Sargassum’s annual cycle typically peaks in June. Hu and his team estimated that the Atlantic had about six million tons of sargassum in February, and he says the numbers will be even higher in March.

“Even in the first two weeks, I saw increased volumes,” he told the outlet.

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https://www.theblaze.com/news/florida-sargassum-seaweed-algae-bloom Spring Break Stinker: 5,000-mile-wide blob of seaweed crawls toward Florida beaches

Laura Coffey

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