Historic seaweed bloom threatens Florida

Katherine Anderson, Features Editor

Florida has been hit by various natural disasters in the past years, and now the state is preparing for yet another. However, this time this natural phenomenon is something that is more unique and nearly unheard of. A 5,000 mile wide blob of seaweed is heading for the sunshine state, coming in across the Caribbean, posing an oceanic hazard and threat to tourism.  

This seaweed will meet Florida’s south eastern coast, threatening to dump smelly and potentially dangerous mounds of the plant across beaches. 

This seaweed is a variety called sargassum and it has formed large blooms in the Atlantic in times past, so much so as to prompt scientists to begin tracking the massive accumulations since 2011. What makes this year’s sargassum mass particularly noteworthy is that it is the largest on record. To put this into perspective, its unprecedented size can be described as the distance from the coast of Africa to the Gulf of Mexico. 

As of March 24, the blob is west of Florida and will pass through the Caribbean up into the Gulf of Mexico this summer. We can expect to see the seaweed on beaches in Florida around July, according to Dr. Brian Lapointe, who is a researcher at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.