Why is there so much darn Sargasso on area beaches?
Also known as Gulfweed, this marine plant has air bladders that help keep it afloat. The sargasso also has small berries that vacationers like to pop between their fingers! For the past few months, we’ve been seeing quite a bit of this brownish-red stuff washed up on our shores.
Contrary to what was previously thought, satellite images are showing that the origin of the current influx of algae is not the Sargasso Sea, but an area north of the estuary of the Amazon River off the coast of Brazil. According to Lori Lee Lum at the Institute of Marine Affairs, the sargasso is being transported into the Caribbean via the North Brazil Current, Guyana Current, and Antilles Current. Once it arrives in our region, local oceanographic and meteorological conditions facilitate its spread.
The Amazon offshore region hasn’t been associated with Sargassum growth in the past. Scientists speculate that the underlying causes of this anomalous event, the second in recent years, may be linked to global warming and perhaps nutrient overload from the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers (Johnson et al., 2013). Although the same phenomenon occurred in 2011, no one is seeing this as a trend.