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“Hurricane Isabel by Wikimedia Commons under CC by 2.0

Based on recent catastrophic events, the world has been in an uproar and countries are being destroyed. Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria has completely destroyed homes, land, and lives of many. There are many important issues to be addressed, but something that might slip minds is the impact of these storms on invertebrates and all the marine life.

Why Hurricanes Form

These tropical storms are caused by warm, moist air rising, causing a low air pressure below it. When the warm air rises, the surrounding air swirls around to take its place. This forms a system of clouds along with winds moving this air. These winds are powered by the heat and water evaporating from the surface. An eye forms in the center of the cyclone caused by the system rotating at high speeds.

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“Hurricane Cross Section” by Wikimedia Commons under CC by 2.0

When the winds reach 75 mph, it is considered a “Hurricane”. There are different levels and categories based on the severity of the winds.

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“Tropical Cyclone Categories” by under CC by 2.0

Correlation Between Hurricanes and Climate Change

According to The Power Dissipation Index (PDI), the Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs) has risen immensely sense the 1970’s. The PDI is an aggregate measure of Atlantic hurricane activity. Recent studies show linkage between increased tropical Atlantic SSTs and increasing greenhouse gases, which is based on statistical correlation. These studies suggest at least a large anthropogenic influence on Atlantic hurricanes.

There is no doubt that the oceans are getting warmer, as we can clearly see ice glaciers melt and other physical factors. Below is graph showing the ocean Temperature Index

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and the linear increase of temperatures throughout the years. Climate change does not cause hurricanes, but it does in fact make them worse and more frequent. The cyclones are fueled by the warmer water caused by global warming. According to computer generated models, global warming is likely to increase wind sheer over the Atlantic, which counteracts the effect of warmer waters. Wind sheer is a difference in wind speed and direction over a relatively short distance in the atmosphere. There are many scientific studies going on showing the correlation between the increase in global warming and the increase in frequent hurricanes.

How are Invertebrates Effected?

Immediate Effects:

  • When the cyclone hits, it can rip everything in its path including all the organisms and localize them in a completely different place. The dangers of this is moralities of organisms because of periods of low oxygen levels (hypoxia)
  • High nutrient loading (natural nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur that cycle regularly, are at extreme detrimental levels)

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“Flooded” by Wikimedia Commons under CC by 2.0

Long-Term Effects:

  • There is alterations in habitats, abundance, and distribution of marine organisms
  • Because of storm surge, salt water can move into the freshwater, killing or disrupting lives of aquatic organisms
  • Flooding from hurricanes will kill non-aquatic inverts like insects, arachnids, annelida and more. After flooding, aquatic organisms that moved along with the flood are now trapped and most die
  • Corals reefs have the ability to interrupt strong waves from pounding on the shore, but there are consequences of constant pound on the corals. Sea sponges and sea fans are ripped from their bases, reefs reduced in size, and some of the more delicate corals get completely shattered.
  • Because of powerful winds, sand can cover and smother corals, sponges, and sea grass killing them. Sediments cloud the water, making it hard for direct sunlight for organisms to photsynthesize
  • Strong waves rip up vegetation that is used for food for marine organisms

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“Fractured Corals” by NOAA under CC by 2.0

Social Injustice Issue

This brings up the social issue of climate change and global warming. There are many different views on how important this issue is. Regardless of opinions, there are scientific facts proving that there are extreme changes to the environment. There is evidence showing emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and water temperatures rising. The government does not want to fund climate change and some people do not even believe that it exists. A change needs to be made before its to late.

How Climate Change Makes Hurricanes Worse” by Youtube under CC by 2.0


2 thoughts on “The Impact of Hurricanes on Invertebrates

  1. This is a great idea for a post considering our weather this season! Does climate change affect certain groups of people more than others? Perhaps you can talk more about the justice aspect in this respect?


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