The World’s Largest Bloom of Seaweed is Devastating, and It May Very Well be Linked to Climate Change
A massive blossoming of seaweed is traversing the Atlantic Ocean, and it may be linked to changes in our climate.
The massive mat of seaweed, known specifically as Sargassum, stretches from the West African coast to the Gulf of Mexico—thousands of miles. This species of seaweed has been in the Atlantic for decades, although in sparse amounts. In 2011, however, researchers found this seaweed in exorbitant amounts, to which algae was connected in a continuous mat stretching across the ocean.
While this particular strand of seaweed provides a sanctuary for many species of fish, birds, and turtles, it can, in large amounts, devastate these same species. In 2011, when satellite imagery located the abnormal bloom of seaweed, researchers attributed it to discharge from the Amazon River during spring and summer. However, it was noted later on that upwelling off Africa during boreal winter may also be in play. The latter factor is likely caused by changes in Atlantic Ocean circulation patterns, courtesy of climate change.
The reason this strand of seaweed is rather devastating is because of where it happens to be washing up—popular tourist destinations across the Caribbean. The Yucatan Peninsula, home of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and other prominent vacation hotspots have been particularly hard hit. Since the beginning of the year, over 650,000 tons of seaweed have washed ashore along the Yucatan’s coastline, and it comes with a distinct egg odor that has turned away many vacationers. The odor is caused by the release of hydrogen sulfide as the seaweed decomposes. Although some may be able to deal with the odor, the hydrogen sulfide has caused issues with local infrastructure, such as the corrosion of plumbing.
While Mexican officials have allocated funds to the cleanup and disposal of seaweed into dumps and the use of it as fertilizer for agriculture, researchers warn these extraordinary blooms of seaweed will become the new normal, and have even given the belt a name—the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt.
For more about the climate, click here!
©2019 Weather Forecaster Jacob Dolinger