Please select your home edition
Edition
Marine Resource 2016

Hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons - the underwater damage

by Jessica Wurzbacher, MSc/Sail-World on 8 Oct 2011
SFS Coral polyps with tentacles - vulnerable .. .
Whether you experience typhoons, cyclones or hurricanes in your part of the world, they all cause major destruction, loss of life and devastation to many. It is extremely likely that you know the devastating impacts these natural phenomena can have on coastal communities, but what goes on beneath the waves as the thunderous beasts unleash on the shore line? Jessica Wurzbacher has written for Sailors for the Sea about this subject:

Such severe storm events have an impact on the invertebrate marine life (coral reefs) as well as the vertebrates, on ocean pollution, the underwater coastlines and on the sea temperatures:

The impacts of hurricanes on invertebrate marine life (e.g. coral reefs):

Coral reefs are fragile biological structures, composed of the calcium carbonate skeletal remains of many generations of coral polyps. Corals species grow in different shapes and sizes and dominate in different areas of the reef (Figure 1).
The branching corals (e.g. Acropora spp.) are the most susceptible to wave damage, but are often found in shallow areas as they are able to use this fragmentation as a method of dispersal. These corals can reattach if they settle on a suitable substrate, and they have a relatively fast rate of growth (~20cm/yr).

Hurricanes can have a devastating impact on coral reefs crushing these delicate structures. (see the last scene of BBC's Blue Planet: Coral Seas). The waves can also propel rubble, and other debris (e.g. artificial reefs not securely anchored) onto the small coral polyps crushing and killing them.

The wave action also increases turbidity and sedimentation, this lowers light penetration to the photosynthetic algae in the coral's tissues, and also directly kills the coral through smothering as the substrate particles clog cilia on their tentacles. The heavy rainfall associated with hurricanes alters the salinity of the water, which is an additional stress for the fragile marine life (Morton, 2002).

The impacts of hurricanes on vertebrate marine life:
Many invertebrate are affected by the increased wave action associated with hurricanes, e.g. breakage of hard coral, sponges, seafans, seawhips, etc, but in general, large vertebrate are minimally affected. Many organism can sense the impending weather system and show great escape tactics. Fish are able to detect waves of pressure or mechanical disturbances in the water through neuromasts in their lateral line. Blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) were recorded responding to the drop in barometric pressure as Tropical Storm Gabrielle approached, and fled into deeper water ahead of the storm.

The resulting pollution from hurricanes:

29th August, 2005 Hurricane Katrina made land fall in Buras, LA, the destruction was immense. By 9th September 2005 NOAA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been notified of 200 hazardous materials released and more than 70 salvage problems with a pollution threat (Pine, 2006). In addition, 46 offshore oil platforms were destroyed, a further 20 were damaged and nearly 50 oil spills were reported in the near-shore environments (Figure 4) (Pine, 2006).

The impacts of hurricanes on the coastline:

Hurricanes can cause significant coastal erosion in a short amount of time, exacerbated by the elevated sea levels association with the storm surge. The powerful force of the waves can easily move large amounts of sand, for example Ocracoke Island, NC suffered severe coastal erosion following Hurricane Irene last month.

The impacts of hurricanes on sea temperatures:

By the end of the summer the nutrients in the surface water have been depleted by the photosyntheticphytoplankton, productivity is low. A strong hurricane will cause ocean mixing, bringing up cooler deeper water to the surface. This deeper water is rich in nutrients, and coupled with the late summer sunlight it generates a large plankton bloom (Figure 6). It is too premature to conclude that human activity (particularly global warming) has had a detectable impact on the Atlantic hurricanes. Model simulations indicate that the 21st century warming may lead to a larger number of intense hurricanes and higher hurricane rainfall rates, but fewer hurricanes overall (NOAA).

For the full essay http://sailorsforthesea.org/Sailing-and-The-Environment/Ocean-Watch/Ocean-Watch-Essays/The-Impacts-of-Hurricanes-Underwater.aspx!click_here, and to learn more about Sailors for the Sea, http://sailorsforthesea.org!click_here.

Zhik Dinghy 660x82PredictWind.com 2014Ancasta Ker 40+ 660x82

Related Articles

Alternative energy - being embraced by the sailing world
Within the cruising world of sailing alternative power is old news, now the racing world is catching up fast. Renewable energy is a hot and sometimes controversial topic on land, but within the sailing world wind generators are old news, and being 'independent of the grid' is taken for granted.
Posted on 27 May 2013
Royal Yacht Squadron leads the armada against windfarm plan
Royal Yacht Squadron is orchestrating a campaign against the world's largest wind farm off the south coast of England Britain's most prestigious sailing club, the Royal Yacht Squadron, is orchestrating a campaign against the largest wind farm ever planned in the world, off the south coast of England. It fears the Navitus Bay wind farm could impact on the main sailing route from the Isle of Wight to the south west, including the Fastnet Race, which starts in Cowes and finishes in Plymouth.
Posted on 9 Apr 2012
Dogs join Ocean Environment Action Group
Is your dog passionate about the ocean environment? No longer does he have to bark in vain, he can be a 'Salty Dog'. Is your dog passionate about the ocean environment? If so, no longer does he have to bark in vain - Sailors for the Sea have a new category of membership - 'The Salty Dog' Membership
Posted on 18 Mar 2011
New Alliance to save whales AND sailors
Campaign group and sailors to work together for better environmental practice at sea for whales London-based campaigning organisation the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and the organisation running the Global Ocean Race 2011-2012 (GOR) announce a unique partnership to seek ways to prevent collisions between whales and yachts. The partnership between a race organisation and an environmental organisation will benefit all cruising sailors, not only those who race
Posted on 15 Mar 2011
60ft Plastiki sets sail from San Francisco
The voyage of the Plastiki began in earnest yesterday as the 60’ man made plastic catamaran was towed unceremoniously ou The voyage of the Plastiki began in earnest yesterday as the 60’ man made plastic catamaran was towed unceremoniously out to sea of the San Francisco coast and released in calm condition and a gentle swell. The mission, the brain child of David de Rothschild , heir of the de Rothschild European banking dynasty began in 2006 and has seen its share of delays and setbacks, and a lack of cooperating w
Posted on 22 Mar 2010
Global Ocean Race on the World Yacht Racing Forum
Josh Hall, Race Director of the Global Ocean Race shared in a debate on methods of cutting overall costs in yacht racing Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, was one of the keynote speakers on the second day of the WYRF and supplied invaluable insight into the mechanics behind this highly successful event and shared the stage with Josh Hall, Race Director of the Global Ocean Race, in a debate on methods of cutting overall costs in yacht racing
Posted on 11 Dec 2009
World Yacht Racing Forum- the Business of Yacht Racing, Final Day
Highlight of the day was the America’s Cup session - with Russell Coutts, Paul Cayard and Brad Butterworth Among the highlights of the day were the America’s Cup session - with the exceptional presence of both Russell Coutts, Paul Cayard and Brad Butterworth - as well as the contributions by double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux and Brown GP F1 team CEO Nick Fry
Posted on 11 Dec 2009
Velux 5 Oceans launches 'Taking On The Elements'
Concept brings together all the key stakeholders in the race under the umbrella of the shared value of sustainability The Velux 5 Oceans today launched its sustainability agenda under the banner of ‘'Taking On The Elements'. The concept brings together all the key stakeholders in the race under the umbrella of the shared value of sustainability, providing a basis of understanding and a platform for activities and communications in 2010 and 2011
Posted on 9 Dec 2009
Study finds surprising new pathway for North Atlantic circulation
Oceanographers have long known that the 20-year-old paradigm for describing the global ocean circulation Oceanographers have long known that the 20-year-old paradigm for describing the global ocean circulation – called the Great Ocean Conveyor – was an oversimplification. But while the conveyor belt paradigm establishes the melody, the subtleties and intricacies of the symphony of global ocean circulation largely remain a puzzle.
Posted on 27 May 2009