TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Scientist warn Florida beaches could soon be inundated with a blanket of seaweed—spanning twice the width of the continental U.S.—that’s approaching the state.
The seaweed is already impacting parts of the Florida Keys. Researchers says the Tampa Bay area will be spared of the seaweed, which is good news as we’re already are dealing with red tide.
“Every year there’s a cycle in the Atlantic ocean but in the past few years on average, we have seen way more sargassum,” said Dr. Chuanmin Hu, a professor of oceanography at the University of South Florida.
Dr. Hu has been tracking sargassum, or brown seaweed, in the Atlantic. His team developed a satellite watch system to monitor bloom conditions.
Images show the seaweed belt, about 5,000 miles wide, floating from West Africa to the Gulf of Mexico.
“Sargassum as a plant requires nutrient to light and the warm ocean to grow,” Dr. Hu said. “Different years have different conditions.”
Dr. Hu believes that’s because nutrient supply changes year to year. He said the Gulf Coast will be spared.
“We have no reason to worry about the sargassum,” said Dr. Hu.
Dr. Hu said he’s noticing more sargassum is heading to Florida today than it was just two weeks ago. Where it washes ashore really all depends on winds, tides and currents.
“Most of the time sargassum in the ocean is a good thing it’s a habitat for many animals,” he said.
While it’s typically a haven for marine life, excess amounts can cause environmental and economic issues. Also, when it starts to decompose, it smells and it’s a costly cleanup.
Researchers say large amounts of seaweed with continue to wash ashore during the spring and summer months, but again, it’s unlikely it’ll affect beaches in the Tampa Bay area.