New research from the University of South Florida’s Optical Oceanography Lab has shed light on the recent seaweed bloom that was expected to hit Florida earlier this year. According to a report for October, there was only an estimated .15 million metric tons of sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean Sea throughout the month, and 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 report noted that minimal sargassum will be present in all regions in November, and if there is going to be a new sargassum bloom for 2024, the first indications will appear in December.
The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, a mass of seaweed stretching from Africa to the Gulf of Mexico, caused concern earlier this year when scientists were worried about its potential impact on Florida beaches. However, according to a report from June and July, indications suggest that the seaweed is shrinking and moving away from Florida shores. This news is encouraging as it means that less rotten eggs smell will be left behind by toxic gases produced by decomposing seaweed, which can cause respiratory problems for people with sensitive noses or allergies. Additionally, Vibrio bacteria are also carried by this seaweed which can cause severe flesh-eating infection. Scientists are closely monitoring this situation and updating their reports regularly on their website at USF’s Optical Oceanography Lab.