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Blob of seaweed that can be seen from space heading towards Florida

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Beachgoers pick their way past seaweed on Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. The brownish looking seaweed variety is called sargassum and is flooding the shores of South Florida this year. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

As the seaweed rots, it releases hydrogen sulfide, which can cause respiratory problems for tourists and residents in the area (Picture: AP)

Marine scientists are tracking a massive carpet of seaweed that is heading towards Florida’s Gulf coast.

The blob of seaweed that stretches 8046 km wide is so large, it can be seen from space, making it the largest in history.

These thick mats of algae are called sargassum blooms, commonly seen drifting between the Atlantic coast of Africa and the Gulf of Mexico.

While the bloom provides a habitat for marine life and absorbs carbon dioxide, it can also wreak havoc when it gets closer to shore.

The raft of brown-coloured seaweed blocks light from reaching coral and negatively impacts air and water quality as it decomposes.

As the seaweed rots, it releases hydrogen sulfide, which can cause respiratory problems for tourists and residents in the area.

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Ocean currents are currently pushing the algae carpet west, causing hundreds of tons of seaweed to wash up on beaches across the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

Scientists have warned of severe seaweed invasions at beaches in the coming weeks and months.

‘What we’re seeing in the satellite imagery does not bode well for a clean beach year,’ Brian LaPointe, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, told NBC News.

Parts of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, including Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, are preparing for up to 3 feet of sargassum buildup in the coming days.

Last year, the US Virgin Islands declared a state of emergency after unusually high quantities of seaweed caused water shortages in St. Croix.

Map: Florida Seaweed Concentrations March 2023 11852089 Giant seawood bloom so large it can be seen from space is heading toward the coast of Florida with potentially disastrous consequences.

Florida Seaweed Concentrations March 2023 (Picture: James Gordon For Dailymail.com)

‘Following the big 2018 blooms, doctors in Martinique and Guadeloupe reported thousands of people going to clinics with breathing complications from the air that was coming off these rotting piles of sargassum,’ said LaPointe.

Seaweed invasions can also be expensive, costing states tourism revenue and money spent on their removal from beaches.

Typically, floating blobs of sargassum accumulate in a part of the North Atlantic called the Sargasso Sea.

A 2019 study in the journal Science estimated that more than 20 million metric tons of sargassum blanketed the Atlantic in an area known as the ‘Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt’.

Before 2011, these masses of seaweed couldn’t observe it with satellites as it wasn’t dense enough. Now, scientists use Nasa satellite data to map the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt and its movements.

The sudden increase in algae blooms has been driven by human activities and climate change.


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