The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, a mass of seaweed stretching from Africa to the Gulf of Mexico, was once a cause for concern when scientists feared its potential impact on Florida beaches earlier this year. However, researchers at the University of South Florida’s Optical Oceanography Lab have reported that the massive, stinky seaweed bloom has significantly decreased in size.
According to their report for October, there was an estimated 150,000 metric tons of sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean Sea throughout the month. Much of it had dissipated by the end of October. There was also very little sargassum overall in the Gulf of Mexico and nearly half of the sargassum in the Central Atlantic was situated west of the African coast.
Scientists believe that these abundances are much smaller compared to recent years, even for this time of year. The latest report suggests that minimal sargassum will be present in all regions in November. If there is going to be a new sargassum bloom for 2024, the first indications will appear in December.
The decrease in size and movement of seaweed has alleviated concerns about its impact on Florida beaches as it carried Vibrio bacteria and emitted toxic gas that can cause respiratory issues for people with pre-existing conditions. Scientists are closely monitoring the situation and encourage everyone to stay informed about updates on their website.
You can watch an episode of “Talk to Tom” featuring Chief Meteorologist Tom Sorrells discussing this phenomenon with one of the researchers studying it further on their website for more information on this topic.