SUNNY ISLE BEACH, Fla. - A massive blob of seaweed called sargassum is washing up on Florida beaches, and with the peak of the sargassum season still months away, experts believe the Sunshine State could experience the worst season on record.
Updates on sargassum growth and where the massive blob is located are provided every month, and patches of the seaweed are riding the waves onto shore along the Florida Keys, but it’s now washing up on shore along Florida’s east coast.
Signs warning beachgoers about the sargassum are posted along beaches. However, many people are still swimming through it, and others notice its visual impact along the shore.
"It’s definitely not aesthetic," one beachgoer told FOX Weather multimedia journalist Brandy Campbell. "Because of all the seaweed, it’s hard to, like, you know, actually enjoy the real beach. It doesn’t deter people, as you can see."
Every morning, Miami-Dade County cuts the sargassum and flips it under the sand, and in some hotspots, it’s removed before it can start to decompose and smell.
But eventually, more of it washes ashore. But not everywhere.
"Some of the Florida beaches, including the ocean sites of the Florida Keys and the east coast of Florida, will experience peak months from May to July 2023," said University of South Florida College of Marine Sciences professor Chuanmin Hu. "We are still one to two months away. So, that’s just a forecast. Whether individual beaches will receive more in a month than other months will depend on the tides and the winds."
The University of South Florida (USF) says the 13-million-ton blob of sargassum seaweed floating across the Atlantic Ocean set a record for March, and the numbers experts are currently seeing indicate it could be a record-high sargassum seaweed this year.
"So, that’s why we say major beaching events are inevitable," Hu added. "Because this is a major year at a minimum, and it’s likely to be a record year. But we cannot say that we are not in June yet."
Hu said he believes wind and ocean circulation bringing nutrients from the bottom of the ocean to the surface might be fueling its growth at this time of year.
And while there’s a lot of sargassum seaweed floating out there, experts say it’s only covering 0.1% of the ocean.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct amount of projected seaweed per USF.