Miami.- The sargassum belt that threatened to ruin the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean this summer is significantly decreasing, and scientists from Florida who produce a monthly report on this natural phenomenon of marine algae blooming predict that it will further diminish or remain stable in the coming months. The Optical Oceanography Laboratory at the University of South Florida (USF) confirms in its latest report the significant decrease of sargassum in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean during June, while in the Central-Western Atlantic, it continued to increase at a slower pace.
“The increase in the Central-Western Atlantic seems to have slowed down, and the amount of sargassum in the Gulf of Mexico will remain minimal, while in the Caribbean, it will decrease or remain stable,” the report states.
This trend may continue over the next 2 to 3 months, which should be good news for residents of the Florida Keys, the eastern coast of Florida, and the western part of the Caribbean Sea, the scientists added. In an interview with the Miami Herald, Chuanmin Hu, a member of the USF research laboratory, emphasized that although they anticipated a decrease in sargassum in June, they did not expect it to “drop so much.”
USF scientists do not expect the levels of these marine algae to recover this year, now that the spring growth season for the plant has ended. Regarding the reasons that have contributed to the decrease in sargassum, they mentioned that they could be attributed to the two tropical storms that occurred in June. “The winds were stronger than usual” in the Gulf and the Caribbean in June. These winds can disperse or even sink the sargassum. That’s our speculation,” he underscored.
In April, the laboratory had warned that the “Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt,” which extends from West Africa to the Gulf of Mexico, spanning a width of 5,000 miles (about 8,000 kilometers), had reached a record weight for that time of the year. They estimated it weighed 13 million tons back then, but by June, the wet weight had dropped to 9 million tons. Globally, the decrease was not as significant as in the Gulf of Mexico, where compared to May, the amount of sargassum reduced by 75% in June, far exceeding the laboratory’s expectations.
The presence of red tide, a brownish-red algae with a foul odor that discourages beach visits, has also decreased in the Caribbean. However, it increased from May to June in the Central-Western Atlantic, where sargassum aggregations have continued to move westward with prevailing currents and winds, although the growth rate decreased.
In the Caribbean, most of the sargassum in June was found around the Lesser Antilles and along the coasts of the southern part of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. There was a minimal amount of sargassum in the Western Caribbean, including the waters along the Caribbean coast of Mexico, and very little sargassum in the Florida Strait and along the eastern coast of Florida.
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