[Coral-List] Gulf of Mexico Region Potential Bleaching Event -"Heads up"

Billy Causey billy.causey at noaa.gov
Sun Aug 15 22:45:11 EDT 2004

Gang Liu,
Thank you for this alert and heads-up.  We had a Sanctuary Team, a Mote Marine
Lab scientist and our Deputy Assistant Undersecretary in the Tortugas when you
sent this message out and I am just getting a chance to respond.  Yes, sea
surface temperatures have been high this summer and we have been watching for
the development of hot spots throughout the Keys.  We want to thank you and
everyone involved for keeping this system functioning.  The system works
incredibly well for identifying the sst hot spots, but it takes some
ground-truthing to integrate field observations (including weather patterns)
with the hot spot observations.  From our experience in the Keys, it takes a
week or more of slick-calm doldrum weather patterns, coupled with extreme
thermal stress, and cloudless days (which often accompany doldrum weather
patterns) ... all occurring at once.  If we start receiving afternoon trade
winds and the sea becomes chopped up a little, the conditions for a mass
bleaching event begin to dissipate for the time being.  We had numerous false
starts this summer .. with 4-5 days of doldrum weather and your system was
alerting us to hot spots... but hen the afternoon trade winds would pick up
again ... mixing the surface waters and conditions would improve.

While in the Tortugas we did video a few isolated colonies of bleached coral
(various species) and some corals that were simply mottled with varying degrees
of bleaching.  All-in-all, the bleaching was minor considering how warm the
water was where our divers were diving (29-30 c).

I think we have escaped another year in the Florida Keys without bleaching and
that is great news.  We have never had a mass bleaching event start after the
end of the first week of August, except for 1998 when we had back-to-back coral
bleaching events from 1997-98.  That was the first time in recent history that
back-to-back massive bleaching had occurred in the Florida Keys and the corals
never really recovered from the 1997 bleaching, so they bleached much earlier in
the spring of 1998.

We are starting to get early cold fronts into north and central Florida and we
have had Hurricane Charley churn through the Straits ... so I am keeping my
fingers crossed that we have made it through 2004 without mass bleaching in the
Florida Keys.

Keep up the great work.  Your reports of hot spots helps us direct our responses
in the field.  As we combine your remote data with our in situ observations, our
success at predicting mass bleaching events will improve considerably.  Cheers,

Gang Liu wrote:

> Gulf of Mexico Region Potential Bleaching Event - "Heads up"
> This summer has turned out to be a hot summer for the Gulf of Mexico.
> Anomalously high water temperatures have been developing in the Gulf
> since early July with the intensity of the anomaly increasing over time
> over most of the Gulf.
> http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/data/hotspotwnc.gif
> http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/data/hotspotw.8.3.2004.gif
> http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/climohot.html
> The northern and eastern parts of the gulf are experiencing the most
> intense thermal stress. These are where the Flower Garden Banks National
> Marine Sanctuary and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are located,
> respectively. Coral Reef Watch's satellite monitoring shows that the
> accumulated thermal stress has reached up to 3 DHWs in a large area in
> the northern gulf around Flower Garden Banks and 4 DHWs in a large area
> in the southeastern gulf around Florida Keys.
> http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/data2/dhwa.8.3.2004.gif
> http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/dhw_retro.html
> The most current satellite sea surface temperature time series at a
> pixel near Sombrero Reef, Florida shows the increasing temperature:
> http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/current/sst_series_sombrero_cur.html
> If these thermal stresses persist, coral bleaching is expected in these
> areas.
> For more information please visit Coral Reef Watch's satellite bleaching
> monitoring website:
> http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite
> --------------------------------------------------
> Any feedback you can provide is useful: both bleaching and non-bleaching
> observations are welcome. Please send the feedback to Alan Strong
> (Alan.E.Strong at noaa.gov) and/or Gang Liu (Gang.Liu at noaa.gov). Users are
> also encouraged to use the NOAA/ReefBase collaborative online bleaching
> report form to send input to our bleaching database. The form is
> available at http://www.reefbase.org/input/bleachingreport/index.asp
> -------------------------------------------------
> August 4, 2004
> NOAA Coral Reef Watch Program
> (coralreefwatch.noaa.gov)
> =========================================
>  Gang Liu, Ph.D.
>  Senior Research Scientist/Oceanographer
>  (STG, Inc.)
>  NOAA Coral Reef Watch Program
>  SSMC1, #5310
>  1335 East-West Highway
>  Silver Spring, MD 20910-3226
>  Tel: 301-713-9386 ext 131
>  Fax: 301-713-3136
>  Email: Gang.Liu at noaa.gov
> =========================================
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

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