TheGuardian.com - It’s brown, it weighs millions of tons, it stretches over 5,000 miles and it is headed for Florida’s beaches. An enormous clump of seaweed circulating the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic is set to coat beaches in a spongy goop, bringing with it a pungent odor similar to rotting eggs.
The huge mass of sargassum is the latest in a series of massive blooms scientists have noticed in the Atlantic since 2011 but could be the largest yet. It is pushing west through the Caribbean and beaches in Cancún, Mexico, and Key West, Florida, have already seen large mats wash ashore.
The brown morass has doubled in size every month from November to January, forming a belt wider than the continental US. It is expected to hit beaches elsewhere in Florida and along the Gulf of Mexico this summer, potentially causing problems for tourists.
The seaweed is a floating type of algae that has berry-like bubbles filled with oxygen that keep it buoyant. When it reaches shore, it decays in the sun and releases hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs and can aggravate respiratory problems such as asthma.