TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Beachgoers along Florida’s west coast could be in for a smelly surprise later this year if an updated Sargassum outlook follows current forecasts.
According to a joint report from the University of South Florida and NASA, a record 13 million tons of Sargassum was observed floating in the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt — that’s about the same amount as that observed a month prior.
Researchers say the lack of change is attributed to persistent clouds in the eastern Atlantic. But that’s not expected to last long.
As prevailing currents and winds push the smelly seaweed westward, its overall mass is expected to “increase substantially,” the report states. Beaching events are also expected to increase in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Impacts of Sargassum beaching events will continue to be felt throughout the [Caribbean Sea] and [Gulf of Mexico] coastal regions, although it is difficult to predict exact timing and location for individual beaching events.”
One researcher previously told Nexstar, “Only the portion between Panama City and Mobile Bay may receive some variable amount of seaweed, and this will be later in the year (perhaps May) if it does happen.”
Some beaches along Florida’s east coast have already felt the impact. Videos show vast mats of Sargassum washing up on shore in Jupiter. Elsewhere, blooms covered picturesque beaches in the Keys.
“We will continue to closely monitor and track Sargassum in each region, with more summary updates provided by the end of May 2023.”