In a remarkable development compared to earlier predictions, the latest summer sargassum forecast published by Quintana Roo’s Sargassum Monitoring network indicates that the seaweed season could end early this year.
According to experts from the environmental agency, sargassum seaweed patches are expected on the Mexican Caribbean coastline this summer, but in lesser amounts than in years past.
With millions expected to flock to Cancun’s sun-kissed shores over the coming months, here’s the latest on how much sargassum travelers can expect to see.
How Much Sargassum Will There Be This Summer?
Sargassum seaweed has become one of the most important factors for travelers when planning their annual getaway to the Mexican Caribbean.
Although mostly harmless for humans, this naturally-formed macroalgae emits a foul odor as it decomposes after landing on shores across the Mexican Caribbean, not to mention the threat it poses to wildlife.
Earlier this year, analysts had said that sargassum levels could reach a new high this summer, prompting officials across many resort hotspots to acquire new sargassum cleaning technology as well as deploy massive barriers in Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
In a surprising new development, a long-term forecast for the summer published this week shows that those concerns may have been unwarranted.
The Quintana Roo Sargassum Monitoring Network is an environmental agency that analyses the amount of seaweed in some of the most popular beaches in the region. Its latest model shows that July, August, and September are predicted to have relatively low seaweed levels.
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Ocean currents and winds are pushing sargassum away from the Mexican Caribbean, towards the north, in the direction of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.
“We monitor sargassum from the moment it leaves Africa and track its 9000-kilometer-long journey to the Caribbean until it impacts the Yucatan Peninsula. But this year, we’ve observed a 20 to 30-degree northward shift in its trajectory”, said Esteban Amaro, head of the monitoring network.
Despite the uplifting news, travelers should always check the latest sargassum forecast before heading to their favorite beach destination. Sargassum is a natural phenomenon that depends on several factors like ocean currents, winds, and other geographical features that can make predicting its behavior a challenge.
The latest ZOFEMAT sargassum forecast – published on June 24 – shows that Cancun’s 7 Blue-Flag beaches currently have ‘very low’ sargassum levels. With arrival numbers picking up, travelers can allocate more time to exploring Cancun’s famous white-sand beaches for the next two weeks.
The outlook is similar for a number of Riviera Maya destinations, including Playa del Carmen and Tulum, which currently only have low to moderate levels of sargassum seaweed.
The situation is a breath of fresh air compared to previous months when officials in those destinations had to shut down several beaches to clean up massive amounts of the macroalgae.
Meanwhile, beaches in Isla Mujeres, one of the trendiest beach destinations this summer in the Mexican Caribbean, are completely sargassum-free this week. Authorities in the popular destination have made cleaning sargassum a priority, and for now, the island is shielded from further sargassum patches in the short term.
Only Cozumel’s eastern coastline is currently reporting ‘abundant’ to ‘very abundant’ sargassum levels due to its proximity to Atlantic currents.
Even if the latest long-term forecast turns out to be inaccurate and more sargassum begins washing up on Mexican Caribbean shores, officials have ramped up efforts to clean up public beaches. From sargassum barriers in Playa del Carmen and Tulum to teams of dozens of cleaners, the Mexican Caribbean is more prepared than ever before to deal with the issue.
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