[Coral-List] Sea Surface Temperature, bleaching, hurricanes and African dust

Gene Shinn eshinn at marine.usf.edu
Thu Sep 21 18:22:27 EDT 2006

    Those of you concerned about Atlantic/Caribbean sea surface 
temperature, coral bleaching, and hurricane formation may find the 
article by Kim Kavin in the October, 2006, issue of Power and Motor 
Yacht p. 99, of some interest. The first few paragraphs of the 
article are transcribed below. The remainder of the article, not 
reproduced, is mainly about boat chartering.
     (There was so much dust in the air in St. Thomas this summer that 
Pamela Wilson could taste it. "You can hear it in my voice," she said 
in early July. "I can't breathe."
     For a lot of people, this would be an uncomfortable 
inconvenience, but for Wilson, the implications were huge. As the 
general manager of the charter firm Flagship in the U. S. Virgin 
Islands, Wilson has the duty of scheduling charter vacations and 
keeping the company's fleet of boats out of harm's way -and she 
believed the dust had a lot to do with the impending hurricane season.
      "When we have a lot of Sahara dust, we don't tend to get a lot 
of storms," she explains.  "When the sandstorms start in Africa and 
move off the coast, that's when they become tropical lows. That's 
what makes the depressions. If we get a lot of dust early in the 
year, it seems to keep the number of storms down."
      Scientifically speaking, the dust keeps sunlight from 
penetrating the water, which keeps the water temperature cooler - 
less than ideal for gathering storms. When Wilson was describing the 
dust in the air, she also noted that the water temperature in St. 
Thomas was lower than that in Florida and the Bahamas, where she, was 
guessing the bulk of the late 2006 hurricanes would hit. She wasn't 
alone. A growing number of insurance providers, yacht captains, and 
charter brokers all believed the same thing-which is why an unusual 
number of boats decided to stay in the Caribbean and offer charters 
through October instead of cruising north to Florida, south to 
Trinidad, or across to the Mediterranean to avoid traditional storm 
      Coral-list readers will realize this magazine article is not 
peer-review science and only describes what people in the Virgin 
Islands have experienced each summer for the past 30+ years. However, 
be advised that a NASA/NOAA project is underway in the Cape Verdi 
islands off the west coat of Africa that is investigating the 
meteorological relations between African dust and hurricane 
formation. The project, to my knowledge, is not investigating the 
viable microbes, insects, heavy metals, pesticides, short-lived 
isotopes and nutrients in the hundreds of millions of tons of African 
dust that cross the Atlantic each year. I expect we will be seeing 
press releases and articles about results of this study in the near 
future. Lets hope we do not experience the late season storms in the 
Caribbean/Florida coral reef areas that have been predicted.  Gene



No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
Marine Science Center (room 204)
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158---------------------------------- 

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