[Coral-List] Present Bleaching Event - PR & USVI etc.

Frank Muller-Karger carib at marine.usf.edu
Sat Oct 1 09:59:05 EDT 2005

Dear Alan:

Thanks for forwarding this message. This exchange reminds me of the 
emails we sent each other earlier this year as we noticed the weak trade 
winds and higher SST's we observed in the Caribbean and middle of the 
tropical Atlantic...

As you probably know, there is an effort to establish the Caribbean 
Regional Association (CaRA) of the Integrated Ocean Observing System 
under leadership of the University of the Virgin Islands (Roy 
Watlington) and the University of Puerto Rico (Julio Morell). This is 
with seed funding from NOAA's Coastal Services Center. CaRA is an ideal 
vehicle to move ahead in organizing regional partnerships to develop the 
observing system you and Scott have properly identified as necessary for 
the region. We need to link this also with the Southeastern Coastal 
Ocean Regional Association and the various IOCARIBE GOOS efforts.

Note that the National Science FOundation also has funded, for over 10 
years now, an oceanographic time series in the Southern Caribbean 
(CARIACO). Another time series is supported by the state of Puerto Rico 
and the University of Puerto Rico (CATS).

Engaging and supporting CaRA to help it develop would be a very 
beneficial thing for all in the region. It can help integrate the 
various NOAA, NSF, local and numerous NGO and other commercial programs 
that collect data independently - much of that data will be lost if not 
coordinated into a common format and database.

You may also recall that we have several academic and private entities 
that are doing an incredibly good job of doing remote sensing of the 
region, and collecting, processing and redistributing various 
comprehensive remote sensing datasets. These creative entities are a 
step ahead in creating new ways to deliver and visualize the data for 
the public, scientists, and managers in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico 
region. I would like to see these programs better integrated in the 
NESDIS vision, rather than being effectively ignored by NESDIS (or 
NESDIS subsequently developing internal programs that try to do the same 

I make another call for you and NOAA to partner with these entities 
within the region to serve the region, rather than develop all solutions 
internally within NOAA. I think everyone benefits this way, by nurturing 
the creative and entrepreneurial spirit you have in the community, and 
at the same time supporting the government's 24/7 role to protect our 
lives and property.

Best regards,

Alan E. Strong wrote:

> Hi Scott,
> Thanks for that relevant overview of hurricane 
> development/growth....keep your eyes open for next week's EOS.  One of 
> our Branches here at NESDIS/ORA has a paper on the explosive 
> development of Katrina [also Rita!] as they moved through the 
> Gulf..over the DEEP warm waters  (fuel supply) of the Loop Current....
> Cheers,
> Al
> PS....I have CCed two Christopher's on this for their possible 
> comments: one with NHC and the other my son at the DC Forecast Office 
> in Sterling, VA
> scott.stripling wrote:
>> Kristen, Alan-
>> To answer Kristen's question, atmospheric conditions, as well as 
>> oceanic conditions, must be favorable
>> for tropical cyclones to form. So a very warm ocean will not 
>> necessarily lead to tropical cyclone
>> development all by itself. Due to the oceanography of the local 
>> region, every year the upper layer
>> waters are warm enough to support the development of tropical 
>> cyclones here in the NE Caribbean.
>> The anomalously warm SST's that aid in setting up the biological 
>> conditions for bleaching can be assumed
>> to be connected to weaker than normal trades across or very near the 
>> region in question, and/or
>> other significant low level atmospheric changes that result in 
>> significant changes in oceanic currents.
>> Both of these conditions now appear at play in our region. Surface 
>> pressure across the W Atlantic and into
>> the northern Caribbean have generaly been below normal since the 
>> beginning of the year. This has helped
>> to produce a displaced, or much weakened "Bermuda High", with the 
>> dominant high pressure cell
>> in the Atlantic meandering closer to the Azores in the central and NE 
>> Atlantic. This has caused a reduced
>> trade wind flow across the tropical Atlantic, leading to less mixing, 
>> and slower regional currents. Too,
>> another factor at play is the larger scale horizontal circulation of 
>> the Atlantic. During the past 2 years, there
>> have been  extended periods (on the order of several weeks) with 
>> greatly reduced transport or flow in the
>> Gulf Stream off of Florida. This has to contribute to a slower than 
>> normal Atlantic Basin circulation and
>> other such anomalies in the circulation patterns.
>> It has been my contention that NOAA will never be able to accurately 
>> model the coupled global
>> ocean-atmosphere system unless there is a more comprehensive in situ 
>> oceanic observing network
>> established, with highest importance placed in regions of the major 
>> currents. In the case of the Atlantic,
>> the Gulf stream is the major heat input to the hemisphere, and all 
>> the water flowing through the Gulf stream
>> originates in the Caribbean. So to accurately model the entire 
>> Atlantic circulation, one would assume
>> that in situ measurements would be needed of both the input and the 
>> output of the Gulf stream. That
>> would mean monitoring the flow through the major passages into the 
>> Caribbean, as well as key segments
>> along the Gulf stream flow. So...while I am on my soap box, may I ask 
>> of you on the coral list, and
>> in NOAA to help point out this important issue to NOAA policy makers. 
>> One of NOAA's big
>> strategic goals for the next decade is monitoring and modeling of 
>> climate change. I argue that if
>> we don't have the proper input into the models, how can we accurately 
>> model this complex system?
>> Scott Stripling
>> NOAA-NWS San Juan
>> Alan E. Strong wrote:
>>> Hi Kristen -- Now that would be an interesting survey....we have 
>>> often observed that once an overall bleaching tendency has 
>>> established itself over a certain region as hurricanes move though 
>>> that region SSTs are brought down by mixing and upwelling.  
>>> Obviously, this extra "fuel" available for the tropical storm has 
>>> the ability to enhance these tropical storms...so much more is 
>>> necessary from the atmosphere to first permit a tropical depression 
>>> to first develop...therein lies the key....
>>> Right now we are witnessing a large pool of anomalously high SSTs 
>>> centered around the Virgin Islands...but no hurricanes have actually 
>>> formed or been enhance, to my knowledge, over that area yet this 
>>> year...
>>> Cheers,
>>> Al
>>> Kristen Hoss wrote:
>>>> Hello,
>>>> I was wondering if anyone has ever studied the correlation of coral 
>>>> bleaching episodes as possible indicators of what hurricane 
>>>> activity may be like during the year?  I was wondering if there was 
>>>> a connection that could be used as a prediction tool, or if the 
>>>> correlation would just be related to the already known water 
>>>> temperatures and weather patterns, etc....
>>>> -Kristen Hoss
>>>> Marine Researcher
>>>> and Wildlife Biologist-USDA/APHIS/WS
>>>> */"scott.stripling" <scott.stripling at noaa.gov>/* wrote:
>>>>     With the NE Caribbean currently located underneath an elongated
>>>>     area of
>>>>     low pressure,
>>>>     light and variable winds will continue to dominate the region 
>>>> for the
>>>>     next 1 to 2 weeks.
>>>>     Computer models are forecasting only brief (6-12 hour periods) of
>>>>     anything
>>>>     approaching normal trade wind flow during this time. Thus the
>>>>     stagnant
>>>>     mixing conditions will
>>>>     persist regionally through the first week of October, at the 
>>>> least.
>>>>     Scott Stripling
>>>>     NOAA/NWS San Juan
>>>>     Alan E Strong wrote:
>>>>     > *NOTICE - Bleaching continues to evolve throughout Eastern
>>>>     Caribbean*
>>>>     >
>>>>     > Beginning in the central Keys during August (Sombrero Key
>>>>     especially)
>>>>     > the warm water episode and accompanying bleaching for this 
>>>> year is
>>>>     > progressing south and eastward through Cuba, Puerto Rico and the
>>>>     > Virgin Islands. This can visually be seen in our recen t 12-week
>>>>     > composite of HotSpot accumulations - Degree Heating Weeks 
>>>> (DHWs):
>>>>     >
>>>>     > http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/data2/dhwa.9.19.2005.gif
>>>>     >
>>>>     > and HotSpots:
>>>>     >
>>>>     > http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/data/hotspotwnc.gif
>>>>     >
>>>>     > Extremely high DHWs above "8" in much of the Virgin Islands are
>>>>     quite
>>>>     > worrisome as these levels in past bleaching events typically 
>>>> bring
>>>>     > some mortality to corals. This evolving episode continues to 
>>>> be at
>>>>     > near unprecedented levels of thermal stress for this region
>>>>     since our
>>>>     > satellite records began in the mid-80s. From the chart one can
>>>>     observe
>>>>     > that eastern Puerto Rico is under higher levels of thermal
>>>>     stress at
>>>>     > present than western PR....hence the recent reports of 
>>>> considerable
>>>>     > bleaching. Until some reduced solar radiation and/or wind & 
>>>> mixing
>>>>     > comes to the "rescue" we worry about prospects along much of the
>>>>     > Windward Islands toward South America over the next month or so.
>>>>     >
>>>>     > Sorry our repot couldn't be more positive.
>>>>     >
>>>>     > Regards,
>>>>     >
>>>>     > Al Strong
>>>>     > NOAA's Coral Reef Watch
>>>>     > http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/index.html
>>>>     >
>>>> >------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
>>>>     >
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>>>>     >
>>>>     >
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__________________ FMK __________________ 
Frank Muller-Karger 
Institute for Marine Remote Sensing/IMaRS 
College of Marine Science 
University of South Florida 
140 7th Ave. South 
St Petersburg, FL 33701

  (727) 553-3335 Office
  (727) 553-1186 Lab.
  (727) 553-1103 FAX

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