Massive Blob Of Stinky Seaweed Has Its Sights Set On Florida... Again

“Like a Stephen King movie.”

A massive, ever-growing blob of brown seaweed stretching across the Atlantic Ocean could spell trouble for beachgoers again this year as it moves west towards Florida. 

According to University of South Florida (USF) scientists, the sargassum patch doubled in size for the second consecutive month in January, reaching 8.7 million tons and breaking the previous January record of 6.5 million tons set in 2018. And it’s only getting bigger.


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“This is very rare in history,” USF oceanography professor Chuanmin Hu told USA Today.  "All we can do now is keep a close eye on what's going on."

The recurring event, which scientists believe is caused by climate change and fertilizer runoff in the Amazon, has been documented since 2011. Last year was a record-breaker for the total amount of sargassum, reaching a peak of 22 million tons in July. Hu predicts that 2023 will be another major sargassum year, with the potential to surpass even 2022.

Florida Atlantic University research professor and algae expert Brian LaPointe told USA Today that years with large amounts of sargassum build on each other “because there is so much seed material to start the next crop.”

“It really becomes a problem when it piles up in the mangroves and causes these dead zones,” LaPointe explained. “It literally fills man-made canals, coming right up in front of peoples homes and surrounding docks.”

In the right amounts, sargassum is essential for marine life. But too much can cause environmental, ecological, and economic problems. Thick mats of it make it hard for sea creatures to move and breathe, and when it dries, sargassum releases hydrogen sulfide gas, which smells like rotten eggs. It's also an eyesore. 

“Our beach could literally be clean at 8 a.m. and three to four hours later a giant mat of sargassum the size of a mall will come in like the blob, like a Stephen King movie,” Tom Mahady, city of Boynton Beach Ocean Rescue chief, told USA Today. "It's not pleasant for swimmers."

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