Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (NewsNation) — Florida’s coastal communities are closely monitoring a seaweed belt that’s twice the width of the United States lurking in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
From shore to the sea, large chunks are washing ashore earlier than normal, and local officials warn that this is only the beginning.
Victoria Dina, a grad student at the University of Miami who’s collecting dissolved organic carbons for the University of Miami Rosenthal School, got a first-hand view of the 13-million-ton seaweed patch on board the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) go-ship out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
“Oh, I love it out here,” she said. “It was like the entire ocean turned red. The seaweed totally surround us and it also kind of moved with the waves so it just looked like the water changed from a smooth blue to a rough rocky reddish-brown water.”
Scientists said the giant patches of seaweed stretch more than 5,000 miles, and are slowly floating in Florida’s direction.
“With the wind influence, the sargassum will move closer to the coast,” said Josefina Olascoaga, a University of Miami Ocean Sciences professor. “The peak will be June, July.”
Florida health officials are warning people about a wave of seaweed smelling like rotten eggs, and while the seaweed itself doesn’t pose a threat, tiny sea creatures that live in it can cause skin rashes or blisters.
Meanwhile, city crews come out daily and remove seaweed from the beaches around 5 a.m.