Alternate Title

Pelagic Sargassum Prediction and Marine Connectivity in the Tropical Atlantic

Document Type

Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Partnership


Since 2011, pelagic Sargassum has experienced extraordinary blooms in the Tropical Atlantic where a system of persistent but seasonally variable currents has retained and consolidated it in large masses. Although beneficial at sea, principally as a unique pelagic habitat, when Sargassum inundates the nearshore environment it can have catastrophic effects on tourism, fisheries, health, and local ecosystems. Providing advanced warning of arrival dates of large masses of Sargassum is critical for enabling preparations and planning for its removal, use, and mitigation. Predictions of arrival time and location involve satellite identification of Sargassum at sea together with ocean current data for forward model tracking. However, forecast ocean current data are generally valid for only 5—7 days. In this study, ocean currents from 2 models (HYCOM and OSCAR) are validated against satellite tracked drifters from the Global Drifter Program with vector correlation and with skill in replicating a drifter pathway. Various wind additions to the models are also tested. Although both models capture the surface current systems in the Tropical Atlantic, they are mediocre in performance along both boundaries. In contrast, a drifter based current data model with 0.5% wind addition had high skill levels. This skill—tested drifter—based model was then used to determine marine connectivity across the Tropical Atlantic and suggests a much broader spread of Sargassum in the eastern Tropical Atlantic than is presently observed by satellites, conforming to earlier hypotheses. This model forms the basis for seasonal scale Sargassum forecasting.

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ABSTRACT pelagic sargasum_final_24sep2020HO.docx (27 kB)
revised abstract

pelagic sargasum_final_24sep2020HO.docx (2009 kB)
revised full document- use this