A massive 5000 mile long blob of seaweed is headed for the shores of Florida and other coasts along the Gulf of Mexico. The mass of seaweed that formed in the Atlantic Ocean threatens to bring down the upcoming tourist season. The hypothesis is that it has to do with how humans are altering the nitrogen cycle. We’re using more fertilizer, burning biomass, cutting down forests and increasing wastewater from cities, all of which sends ammonium, nitrate and phosphate down major river systems. Those elevated nutrients then shoot out over the surface of the ocean, acting as a fertilizer for sargassum patches. Sargassum begins to rot after about 48 hours on land, releasing irritants like hydrogen sulfide, a hazard to anyone with respiratory issues like asthma. Oh, and the resulting smell resembles manure or rotten eggs — not a great spring break aroma. It used to be that sargassum rafts were disparate, sporadic bodies, causing little disruption to beach-going. But scientists noticed a change in sargassum levels in 2011, when masses of the seaweed multiplied, gaining in density and size, becoming so big they were captured on satellite images.

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