Breaking Down the Science of a Hurricane

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Hurricane season has devastated communities this year along the Caribbean Sea. Puerto Rico, Florida, and even the Bahamas felt the wrath of these powerful storms. With the number of storms increasing during the season, paired with unprecedented wind strength, understanding the science of how these storms form and why they are so strong.

 

Hurricane 101

It takes various different circumstances for a powerful hurricane to form. If one small ingredient is missing, a storm that could destroy a city can be turned into a rainy day with big clouds. Tropical cyclones, which is an umbrella term for tropical depressions, storms, and hurricanes need the basic ingredients to form. A preexisting thunderstorm, warm water, humid air, and light winds must all be present to be the foundation for a hurricane. These mighty storms need fuel, and that fuel is heat from the ocean. When the surface of the ocean rises to 80°F, that is when trouble begins.

The moisture in the air is what fuels the thunderstorm needed and the winds cannot be strong enough to hinder the shaping of the hurricane. When all of these factors meet up perfectly is when a power thunderstorm is able to take off. Depressions are normally the spark of growing into something greater.

 

This 2017 Season

This hurricane season has proved to be one of the most aggressive in the history of weather. Not since 2005, the top busiest year for Atlantic hurricanes with 28 storms, has the U.S. been affected by this many storms. This season alone has had 13 identified storms so far. For this season to be put into the books for the top 15 hurricane years, it needs two more named storms by November 30th, 2017.

The true source, specifically, for this year’s intense season is due to the Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO). We are currently in the warm phase of the AMO which allows for a lack of vertical wind shear paired with increased surface temperatures on the ocean. This creates frequent storm developments. This warm AMO phase has been active since 1995 and prior to the was a cold phase the lasted between the years 1971 to 1994.

The other factor that is making this season so brutal is its ability to direct itself so well. An area of dominant subtropical high pressure, known as the “Bermuda High” is located above the Atlantic. It forces winds to turn clockwise and pushes them to directly hit towards the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and the east coast. It is essentially a steering wheel towards land.

What You Should Know About Coral Reef Bleaching!

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The Great Barrier Reef and other locations that are home to large amounts are coral are under attack by changes in their climate. Coral is becoming pearly white in the warming water temperatures of the Great Barrier Reef. These white coral are a symptom of a larger issue that is influencing our oceans. Here is all you need to know about the current issue of widespread coral bleaching.

 

What is Coral Bleaching?

In normal coral, the color of ranges from dark browns and greens paired with some splashes of vibrancy. The reason for these dark colors is because coral has algae that live inside their tissue. The coral polyps have an endosymbiotic relationship with the algae and are essential for any healthy coral. With coral bleaching, the polyps expel the algae, leaving the coral to look abnormally white. The coral polyps are still alive but the algae serve as 90 percent of the coral’s energy which leads to coral starvation

A recent estimation from this year stated the about 70 percent of shallow water corals had died near Port Douglas which is a town that is home to the Great Barrier Reef. The bleaching is not only hurting the visible part of the reef but it also has to harm non-visible parts as well.  It has been verified that 29 percent of shallow water corals died from bleaching during the year 2016.

Why many are so concerned with coral bleaching is because of how it creates environments for animals to dwell and how it could affect not only the ocean but also local economies. Reef tourism creates an annual income of $3.9 billion and also employs many Australians (70,000 people).

 

Why is it Happening?

There are quite a few factors as to why coral bleaching has become such a massive issue for most of the globe’s reefs. Above-average sea temperatures caused by a general increase of temperature is the leading cause of coral bleaching globally. Oxygen starvation increased solar irradiance, and changes in salinity are also factors that are influencing the death of coral reefs.

The years from 2014 to 2016 had some of the longest global bleaching events ever recorded.
El Niño, the major weather event, also played a major part in the change in temperature for an extended period of time. The weather event creates warmer than the average temperature in the Pacific Ocean. The impact of El Niño was seen directly in the Great Barrier massive bleaching event.

Climate Change

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/03/science/earth/arctic-shipping.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0