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Emma the whale explains hurricanes

Emma the whale explains hurricanes

Hello, fellow ocean friends, Emma here!

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Today I want to talk to you about hurricanes. You know that hurricanes destroy houses, buildings, cars, and power lines. But have you ever wondered what happens to us Shore Buddies when they pass overhead? Well, depending on where we live or where we are when they come, it can be very bad or very good.

The rain from hurricanes can flood beaches, drowning nests or washing sea turtle eggs out to sea. Hurricanes can mix up the dirt, silt, and sand near beaches, allowing different chemicals to enter the water or rise to the surface. These chemicals can then allow algae to grow so much, they eat all the nutrients and breathe all the oxygen in the water, killing fish and other critters. Hurricanes can also pick animals up and drop them somewhere else, helping invasive species spread or throwing migratory birds off course. And last but not least, the hurricanes’ storm surges and other waves can also rip up coral reefs, modify shores, and even create new islands from the corals they destroy.

But there are good sides to a hurricane. The rain, for example, flushes out weeds and waste from wetlands. The mixing of dirt, silt, and sand allows more nutrients to be in the water so more critters have food. Even corals benefit, like the ones in Key Largo, despite their structural destruction: during the summer, the water around the coral reefs gets hot, and corals begin to die. Hurricanes cool down the water, allowing the surviving corals to live longer.

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Diagram: Movement of a hurricane as it approaches land. The warm water powers the hurricane, which mixes up the seabed, breaks up corals, creates storm surges, and leaves cooler water in its wake. Source:  Wilkinson, C., Souter, D. (2008). Status of Caribbean coral reefs after bleaching and hurricanes in 2005. "Chapter 3: Hurricanes and their effects on corals." Heron et al. Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, and Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Townsville, 152 p.


As the Southeast coast recovers from Hurricane Florence (I knew Florence the spiny spider crab, prickly little guy), we will start seeing the damage it caused on the beaches, wetlands, and under the sea. Last year’s hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria caused a lot of damage wherever they went, and the full effects have only really been studied this year. There have been several coral restoration projects, with veteran Marines and Navy SEALs getting involved, trying to glue the broken pieces of coral back onto the reefs.

It is quite likely that there will be more of these restoration projects next year, once this hurricane season is over. If you would like to get involved when the time comes, check back on the blog for updates on organizations that need your help!

Hurricane Michael is now on its way, so stay safe out there, friends, and see you on the flip side!



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