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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Charlie Jones

Blob of seaweed twice the width of entire US heading for Florida and threatening beaches

A massive blob of seaweed twice the width of the entire US is heading towards Florida, threatening to cover the Sunshine State's beautiful beaches with stinking seaweed.

The huge mass floating in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean seas is so big it can be seen from space.

The specific type of seaweed making up the gargantuan blob is called sargassum, which has long formed in the Atlantic Ocean.

But scientists think this 5000-mile-wide bloom is one of the biggest ever recorded.

As ocean currents push it towards the coast of the US and Mexico it could pose problems for tourism.

The mass of sargassum seaweed threatens tourism in its patth (Getty Images)

Brian LaPointe, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, told NBC News that this year's seaweed bloom is a particular concern.

Despite alarming scientists for some time, LaPoitne said this year was "incredible" but that "what we're seeing in the satellite imagery does not bode well for a clean beach year."

The problem has been around for years but appears to be getting gradually worse.

Though seaweed is good for the planet in terms of its ability to absorb carbon emissions and its uses as a renewable material, but such large quantities of the plant near beaches is a big problem.

A tractor plows seaweed that washed ashore (Getty Images)

When it rots, it can cause a bad smell that is bad for tourism, as well as reducing the air and water quality.

Brian Barnes, an assistant research professor at the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science, added: "Even if it's just out in coastal waters, it can block intake valves for things like power plants or desalination plants, marinas can get completely inundated and boats can't navigate through.

"It can really threaten critical infrastructure."

The US Virgin Islands was forced to declare a state of emergency last year after masses of sargassum led to water shortages.

The mass of seaweed stretches 5,000 miles (Getty Images)

Currently, the brown algae mass reaches across from the coast of West Africa, right over to the Americas and weighs around 20 million tons.

Barnes added: "Historically, as far back as we have records, Sargassum has been a part of the ecosystem, but the scale now is just so much bigger.

"What we would have thought was a major bloom five years ago is no longer even a blip."

At present, parts of Mexico including areas like Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, are preparing for around three feet of Sargussum buildup.

Patricia Estridge, CEO of Seaweed Generation, told the Guardian: "I think I’ve replaced my climate change anxiety with sargassum anxiety."

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