Gulf of Mexico
It's a seasonal thing, happening a couple of times a year. Winds and tides bring Sargassum seaweed ashore to cover the beaches with the brown algae. Sargassum is a good thing, floating in the Atlantic, giving fish and sea turtles a food source and place to hide. MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY

FL - Stringy algae floods Brevard County beaches

This summer, some say things look a bit — and smell a bit — worse than usual. That's because the shoreline seems mostly awash in weeds, from Cocoa Beach to Sebastian Inlet and beyond.

There's the usual Sargassum, which the Caribbean Sea delivers seasonally to the Gulf Stream and then Central Florida's beaches.

But some "filamentous" algae has been dominating the surf zone this summer, to the bane of fishers, surfers and all others who prefer weed-free wading, scientists at Florida Atlantic University say.

Oceanographers expect Sargassum seaweed and other macroalgae to thicken on our beaches every year. It comes from the eastern Caribbean and spreads throughout Florida's east coast and elsewhere.

Winds dictate when these stringy weeds lap up on our shore.

This drone photo, taken on July 13, 2022 by Mitch Roffer, of Melbourne Beach, shows a filamentous algae washing into the surf zone this week just south of Sebastian Inlet.

'Sargassum storm':Stinky seasonal seaweed sets record in Brevard, and more is coming this way

Seasonal seaweed strikes back: Tons of seaweed washes up on the Space Coast

For centuries, pelagic Sargassum, floating brown seaweed, have grown in low nutrient waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, supported by natural nutrient sources such as fish and invertebrates excretions and ocean upwelling. But as fertilizers, wastewater and other human source have increased the nitrogen and phosphorus into rivers, that seaweed as well — as the filamentous kind we're seeing so much of now — has been growing out of control over the past decade.

Florida Atlantic University researchers have for years shown seasonal Sargassum here and elsewhere in the tropical Atlantic has grown worse in recent years because of increasing nitrogen and phosphorus from discharges from the Congo, Amazon and Mississippi rivers, atmospheric deposition from Saharan dust, and biomass burning of vegetation in central and South Africa.

This summer's Sargassum already has set a record. Combined, the total amount of the weed increased from 18.8 million tons in May 2022 to 24.2 million tons in June 2022, setting a new historical record, according to the University of South Florida scientists July 2 bulletin on the algae.

Read more.