The Palm Beach Post

NEW: This natural, but nasty, nuisance is lurking off Palm Beach County’s coast

A bloom of seaweed that experts warn could mimic 2018′s record-breaking sargassum crop is sending a tangle of mats through the Florida Straits to Palm Beach County’s coast.

Chuanmin Hu, a University of South Florida oceanography professor, released a Jan. 18 satellite image that shows a string of floating seaweed fields sitting about three to four miles from Palm Beach. While much of the drifting ocean flora will move north with the current, some will get pushed west with bouts of onshore breezes.

“Some of these may drift towards the beaches,” Hu said. “This trend will continue for at least another couple of months as these sargassum rafts come from the Caribbean and we see a lot of them in the Caribbean right now.”

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A Dec. 30 sargassum forecast from USF showed an increase in sargassum in the central and western areas of the Caribbean Sea following a record abundance of seaweed in November. USF post-doctorate researcher Mengqiu Wang found more than double the November average of seaweed as measured between 2011 and 2017.

“That means 2019 could be similar to the situation in 2018 but whether it develops into a massive bloom may depend on environmental conditions such as temperature and nutrient availability,” Wang said. “The most immediate impact would be in the Caribbean.”

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