This year’s summer travel season could look slightly different at some of the world’s best beaches.
According to the University of South Florida forecasts, a sargassum blob, perhaps larger than any other in history, could hit some of Florida and the Caribbean’s beaches this summer. The blob currently sits all the way from near Florida in the Gulf of Mexico and towards West Africa, spanning over 5,000 miles.
Sargassum is nothing new for the area—the Caribbean Sea has recorded significant accumulations of sargassum almost every year over the past decades during the early months of each year. Still, even with that kind of history, this year, according to the University of South Florida (USF) Optical Oceanography Lab, stands out.
Most notably, USF said, the quantity of sargassum in the Caribbean Sea nearly doubled over the past two months, even as the overall quantity in the central Atlantic Ocean decreased. Forecasts currently call for the blob to travel through the Caribbean during the spring and then show up on beaches in large quantities in Florida starting this summer. Some areas, including the Florida Keys, could see some wash ashore as soon as this month.
“The large quantities already in the [Caribbean Sea] (and to the east) will continue to accumulate and migrate westward, creating beaching hazards along the way. The Florida Keys may start to see small amounts in March,” USF’s optical Oceanography Lab said in its latest update.
That’s bad news for visitors to Florida beaches during the typical sargassum season, which runs from March through October. Aside from it being unsightly when it washes ashore, sargassum can rot in the heat, causing bad smells, and discouraging some tourists.
According to the Miami Herald, the most at-risk areas this year are the most well-known South Florida beaches: “In Florida, barrier islands like Miami Beach and West Palm Beach tend to get the worst of it because they jut out closer to the Gulf Stream. But Atlantic beaches in states to the north also could see seaweed.”
The Herald also reported that the expectation is that it will show up in clumps when the tide is high and winds are blowing strong from east to west.
Speaking to TMR, a representative of the Greater Miami Conventions and Visitors Bureau said that the organization is monitoring the blob.
“Visitors throughout Greater Miami and Miami Beach continue to enjoy our great weather, attractions, dining options, and events. We will observe the path of the potential influx of sargassum seaweed to determine if it will impact leisure or business travel to our destination,” a spokesperson for the Greater Miami Conventions and Visitors Bureau told TMR.
“The GMCVB maintains contact with Miami-Dade County and other organizations equipped with the resources to respond to sargassum seaweed clean-up efforts as necessary and will work in partnership to share information as we monitor developments,” the spokesperson added.
For those interested, the GMCVB has a live feed of beach conditions available here.