New Record-Size Sargassum Threatens To Invade Florida And The Caribbean Soon

According to researchers at the University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab, the bloomincreased so substantially that the abundance reached a new record from all previous December months.

In November, there were one million metric tons of sargassum in the central Atlantic; by December, that amount had grown to five million tons.

“This indicates that 2024 will be another major Sargassum year,” the researchers stated.

Satellite image from June 2021

Over the past ten years, there has been a noticeable increase in both the size and damage caused by these blooms. Brian Barnes, a research professor at the University of South Florida who specializes in sargassum, said to Nexstar’s WFLA last year that “before 2011, we never saw anything like this.”

The good news is that a comparatively small amount (120,000 tons) was found in the Caribbean Sea and virtually no sargassum was found in the Gulf of Mexico. But in the upcoming months, that is anticipated to change. Scientists predict that as the seaweed grows more widespread, currents will carry bits of it westward.

Latest Photos from Beaches in Mexico (Source: FB Group Sargassum Seaweed Updates (Cancun, PDC, Tulum)

The mass of sargassum increased to 13 million tons last year. Naturally, not all of that washed up on beaches, but the chunks caused damage along Florida’s coast and presented significant difficulties for the travel and tourism sector during spring break and the summer.

The Florida Department of Health advises beachgoers not to touch or swim near sargassum if they see it washing up on the shore. Its tiny inhabitants, such as jellyfish larvae, have the potential to sting or itch your skin.

To prevent respiratory problems and unpleasant odors, the department also advised shutting windows if you live close to the beach and wearing gloves if you must handle sargassum.