Outlook of 2022 Sargassum blooms in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico*
December 31, 2022, by University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab
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The maps below show Sargassum abundance, with warm colors representing higher values. In December 2022, the overall Sargassum quantity in the central Atlantic Ocean reversed its continuous decline in previous months. Record-high Sargassum quantities for December were observed, approximately double the amount recorded in November (of note, the November quantity reported in the previous bulletin was revised downward after data reprocessing). Small amounts of Sargassum coverage lingered in the central Caribbean Sea (CS), while essentially none was observed in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). The Sargassum aggregation in the east-central Atlantic (noted in previous bulletins) has continued to migrate westward and grow in size.
Looking ahead, the doubling of Sargassum quantity from November to December does not bode well for the region, as such increases during this season have historically preceded major blooms in the following years. Sargassum abundance in the Caribbean Sea will likely increase into early 2023, starting with the Lesser Antilles in January. By spring 2023, a major bloom may develop in the western central Atlantic and the CS. We will continue to closely monitor Sargassum coverage, with more updates provided by the end of January 2023. More information and near real-time imagery can be found under the Sargassum Watch System (SaWS, https://optics.marine.usf.edu/projects/saws.html).