By R. Michael Brown, Writer & Multimedia Producer.
You’ve seen it and likely smelled it, Sargassum seaweed. If you live in Palm Beach or visit during the summer, you’ve stepped over it on your way to the water at the beach. But this year it’s different.
The invasion started in April. The Civic Association received a news tip from Diane Buhler, founder of Friends of Palm Beach, as they were cleaning the beaches on the north end. Mounds of Sargassum were piling on the beach with vast sheets of it stretching out to sea.
We contacted George Buckley, a Harvard University scientist that has been investigating the Sargassum bloom infecting the Carribean, the Gulf coast, and now Florida. His theory on this growing threat has scientists, government leaders, business owners, residents, and tourists troubled around the hemisphere.
“Throughout the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico we are seeing phenomenal blooms like we’ve never seen before,” said Mr. Buckley. “The question is, where does this come from, what causes this?”
Satellite photos show the equatorial currents of Brazil, coupled with the North Atlantic current, brought sargassum into the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea where the right conditions, warmer water and pollution, caused the seaweed to literally explode.
“The ocean is about a degree centigrade higher than ever before and pollution worse than ever before,” said Mr. Buckley. “There are nutrients washing out from the entire east coast of South America and from North American into the Gulf. This great mix, this soup, has created just the right conditions for Sargassum seasweed to take off.”
The result… virtually every island in the Bahamas and Caribbean are inundated by sargassum causing terrible economic and environmental problems. Nutrients from millions of gallons of Amazon and North America runoff are playing a role. [See the video below for the full story]