The residents of Florida are pretty familiar with their old foe, Sargassum seaweed, but they have not faced it in this magnitude. An enormous Sargassum seaweed island is heading to the shores of South Florida. Stretching 1100 Squares and weighing about 8.7 million tons, it has the potential to be a record-breaking ‘golden tide’, according to Professor Chuanmin Hu at the University of South Florida.
Sargassum is a brown microalgae family genus commonly found in warm tropical parts of the ocean. These majestic islands are crawling with life, from sargassum fish to turtle hatchlings. Once these islands reach a certain weight and start to die, the island sinks to the ocean floor, becoming an important part of the ecosystem by providing nutrients to organisms crawling on the seabed.
Lately, a major change in blooming patterns has been recorded. A spike in these seaweed islands has been seen throughout the last few years. The seaweed is growing larger and closer to unknown shores, and not sinking as fast as it should.
Scientists believe this is due to climate change that influences the water temperature of the ocean, thus creating warm sea tides where previously there were none. The runoff of nutrients from the Amazon and the Mississippi river are also playing a critical role in the lifespan and growth rate of these seaweed islands.
Once it hits, it could have terrible repercussions for South Florida residents. ‘Once it reaches the shoreline, it will most certainly keep growing,’ says Professor Barry Rosen from Florida Gulf Coast University's Water School, in an interview with WPBF 25 News. Apart from the rapid growth, the smell alone will have a tremendous effect on the tourism of South Florida beaches. The smell is described as a mixture of sea tang and rotten eggs, due to the release of hydrogen sulfide gas. The CO2 and hydrogen sulfide gas could have a negative health effect on anyone with respiratory diseases.
Scientists can not accurately predict when the ‘blob’, as named by media outlets, will hit the shore of South Florida and are on the lookout for the first signs of approach.
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