Project Title: Monitoring of the Hurricane Harvey Plume in the Gulf of Mexico.
We will track, map, and provide a spatial analysis of the freshwater plume runoff in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico resulting from Hurricane Harvey using a combination of ocean color and infrared imagery. The satellite data will be derived from a variety of polar orbiting satellites from NASA, NOAA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
The amount of rain, subsequent flooding and runoff into the ocean from Hurricane Harvey is an environmental concern due to its impacts on the fauna and flora of the coastal ocean. Not only is freshwater input with its turbidity and increased chlorophyll + colorized dissolved organic matter (CDOM) of concern, but the industrial and domestic household chemicals causing pollution in the water are of concern as well (Tabuchi, 2017). Tropical storms have been known to cause significant short-term biological effects by redistributing species or forcing them to migrate and longer-term effects such as smothering oyster beds, reducing the recovery rate of corals, and changing the recruitment success from eggs to juveniles. However, longer-term effects are not well studied and thus, in light of this major, Category 5 storm, there is a critical need for the proposed work. Fisheries managers need to know immediately the spatial and temporal extent of the plume which will assist them to evaluate which stocks are likely to be affected and what management strategies need to be modified in light of this disturbance.
Figure 1. NASA MODIS Aqua ocean color image comparison of the conditions before (left) and immediately after (right) Hurricane Harvey from Texas to Louisiana. The dramatic difference in the amount of green – high chlorophyll water is substantially different off the Texas coast.
This research is of high significance and likely to have a long-lasting impact due to the increased understanding of such events on the short-term and long-term impacts of tropical events on the fauna and flora in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico, along with the transport and fate of the polluted water offshore. The beneficial impacts to fisheries managers is that the derived environmental data will be used for stock assessments which is mandated by the Magnuson – Stevens Fisheries Management Act in ecosystem based fisheries management. Incorporating the environmental conditions will result in improved stock assessments and fisheries management. This project will map the impact of such major tropical storms on the distribution and concentration of terrestrial and ocean carbon fluxes by tracking the ocean color – chlorophyll signal in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico, which is critical in understanding the carbon cycle through the ocean ecosystem and back to the atmosphere.
Weekly summaries and maps will be provided on the ROFFS™ website and publicized widely through social media, press releases, ROFFS™ Fishy Times Newsletter, and direct email to a variety of agencies and fisheries managers. The distribution will focus primarily on scientists, fisheries – managers and fishers, and also the general public. The data will be available to interested persons via ROFFS™ website.