The mass, known as the great Atlantic Sargassum belt, is drifting toward the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists say seaweed is likely to come ashore by summer to create a rotting, stinking, scourge.
For much of the year, an enormous brown blob floats, relatively harmlessly, across the Atlantic Ocean. Its tendrils provide shelter and breeding grounds for fish, crabs and sea turtles. Spanning thousands of miles, it is so large that it can be seen from outer space.
But scientists say that in the coming months, the blob — a tangled, buoyant, mass of a type of seaweed called sargassum — is expected to come ashore in Florida and elsewhere along the Gulf of Mexico. No longer will the blob be gentle; scientists say it will then begin to rot, emitting toxic fumes and fouling the region’s beaches over the busiest summer months.
The seaweed, which can also cause pollution and threaten human health as it decays, has already begun to creep onto the shores of Key West, Fla. In Mexico, “excessive” levels of the seaweed were recorded last month choking beaches south of Cancún. Photos and videos from the region show beachgoers wading through the brown muck along usually glistening beaches.