It’s being called the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, and it promises to invade Florida just after the not-so-great North American Snowbirds leave.
We can’t catch a break.
If only the arrival of the estimated 13 million tons of seaweed from the south were timed better with the departure of the one million snowbirds from the north, we could ameliorate the impact of one annual invasion with the dissipation of another.
“We hope you enjoyed your stay,” we could say to the snowbirds as they throw their golf clubs into their trunks for the long drive up north. “We’ve enjoyed having you so much that we’ve arranged a little parting gift for you as a token of our thanks.…
“No, it’s not more orange juice. This is a little more … er, um … substantial.
“It’s just a little gesture … Actually, not so little, and after we give it to you, you might want to roll down the windows for the ride home.”
We’d send them to the nearest beach to pick it up. And then we’d load up their sedans with as much “Florida Freedom Weed” as we can.
Yes, Florida lawmakers will have to pass a bill that renames sargassum — the stinky, floating mats of brown seaweed — as Florida Freedom Weed.
Help yourself to our “freedom weed”
“We want you to take a little bit of Florida freedom home with you,” we’d explain. “You might want to blend it up for smoothies after you get the sand out.
Unfortunately for us, as we reach Easter and Passover, the unofficial end of snowbird season, we’re still weeks away from the arrival of the seaweed in significant beach-fouling waves. Our timing is off.
There’s some symmetry there. Waves of snowbirds clog our highways during the winter just as the waves of seaweed will clog our beaches this summer.
And this year’s migration of sargassum, a product of climate change and man-generated nutrient pollution of the coastal Atlantic, is expected to be worse than it has ever been.
The most recent monthly newsletter issued jointly by the University of South Florida Optical Oceanography Lab and NASA showed a “record abundance” of disconnected and scattered seaweed mats that span from the waters of West Africa to the Caribbean.
A messy problem that’s getting worse
As the waters warm, this will add to a “record bloom” of seaweed that is expected to drift toward the Gulf of Mexico as well as “major breaching events” in the Florida Keys and on the east coast of Florida, the newsletter claimed.
“As previously predicted, although the peak month of June or July is several months away, there is already a sign that this year’s Sargassum bloom will be the largest ever recorded, with major impacts throughout the next few months,” it read.
Some of the reports of the approaching waves of seaweed have given the impression that large portions of the ocean are obscured by solid mats of seaweed. But the newsletter clarified that while the seaweed is plentiful and present in continental-sized areas of the ocean, its average density in the affected ocean is one-tenth of one percent.
Even so, it will be a big, smelly mess when it piles up on Florida shorelines.
Not to mention, a visible problem. And while this is a nonpolitical year, there will be lots of blame tossed around.
The political component to seaweed
Republicans lawmakers will find it hard to resist making fact-finding trips to Florida’s southern border, where they will see these waves of brown invaders as another example of the Biden Administration’s liberal open border policies.
And somehow, Hunter Biden’s laptop will be involved.
Democrats will blame the DeSantis Administration for using the seaweed to take attention away from Florida’s affordable housing crisis. And they’d point out that we’re going to need a lot of undocumented immigrant labor to pick up the seaweed.
DeSantis will ban people from wearing masks while picking up the stinky seaweed.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump will claim if he were president he would make one phone call and get Brazil to turn around the seaweed from our shores.
“Fixing the problem would be so easy, so easy,” he would say on social media. “I could do it in less than an hour.”
He would spell sargassum, “sorgasm.”
“Nobody knows sorgasm better than me, that I can tell you,” he’d say.
To make things worse, the sargassum invasion comes at a rare time when Florida would normally be relatively free from invasion. It’s during that pocket of respite between snowbird and tourist seasons and the meat of hurricane season.
Not any more. Now, it appears we can pencil in an ever-growing new summer invader on the calendar.
We can’t catch a break.