Proposal Title: Monitoring of the Hurricane Harvey Plume in the Gulf of Mexico.
NASA ROSES Solicitation NNH17ZDA001N-RRNES
M.A. Roffer1 (PI), G. Gawlikowski1 (Co-I) and M. Upton1 (Co-I)
- Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service, Inc. West Melbourne, FL 32904
Start Date: October 16, 2017
End Date: February 15, 2018
This project proposes to 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.
This proposed 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.
This project proposes to track, map, and provide a spatial analysis of the freshwater plume runoff in the Gulf of Mexico resulting from Hurricane Harvey using a combination of ocean color and infrared imagery. While official rainfall amounts have not been finalized and published in peer reviewed scientific literature, rainfalls of 30-50 inches were commonly reported a result of Hurricane Harvey (NCEP, 2017) in Texas centered around Houston during the August 25 – September 03, 2017 period. A report of 64 inches of rain that fell on the land and coastal zone off Texas appears to be the heaviest rainfall ever logged in the United States during a tropical storm (Chron, 2017). The previous record was 52 inches in Hawaii in 1950. By comparison the rainfall from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was estimated between 6-13 inches (Weisberger, 2017). In addition to the rainfall, the storm surge for Hurricane Harvey was reported at 12 feet (NOAA, 2017). Katrina’s was 25-28 feet (NOAA, 2008)
Regardless of the rainfall records and storm surge differential between Harvey and Katrina, the amount of rain, subsequent flooding and runoff into the ocean from Hurricane Harvey is of 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 matters of concern, but the industrial and domestic household chemicals in the water are of worry as well (Tabuchi, 2017). Thus, mapping the freshwater plume and algae bloom is of urgent concern. Figure 1 shows the dramatic changes in the ocean color, an index of the algae blooms, i.e. increased chlorophyll and colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM), turbidity, and a proxy for fresh water.
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.
The impact of hurricanes on marine ecosystems and coastal areas is well documented (Burgess et al. 2007; Conner et al. 1989 and NMFS, 2007, among others). These episodic events degrade the habitat. As the habitat degrades or is reduced in area, such degraded habitat can limit the quantity or quality of fishery resources in three ways: 1) by limiting suitable space, shelter, vital nutrients, or food; 2) by interfering with physiological functioning or reproduction via contamination; or 3) by contaminating the tissues of fishery species. Fisheries managers need to know immediately which stocks are likely to be affected in both the short-term and longer time frames. They also need to know which management strategies need to be modified as a result of this disturbance.
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 (Burgess et al. 2007; NMFS 2007). However, extensive studies on the longer-term effects are not well studied (Conner et al., 1989, NMFS, 2007) and thus in light of this major – Category 5 storm, there is a critical need for the proposed work.
Recently, the Government Accountability Office’s report to the U.S. Congress (GAO, 2016) highlighted the gaps in the fishing community and fisheries managers’ understanding of the effects of environmental variability on the catchability (vulnerability and availability), as well as, changes in the distribution, seasonal timing, and recruitment of marine resources. The effect of freshwater on marine and coastal species is important when understanding the changes in the distribution, recruitment (egg and larvae survival), trophic interactions, species dominance and the survival of ocean species including fish, marine mammals, turtles, and the coral ecosystem in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. Knowing the distribution and time history of the freshwater coming from the Texas mainland after Hurricane Harvey is critical information for fisheries managers for understanding changes in abundance, apparent abundance (including total catch, catch rate), and the distribution of catch.
Additionally, the effect of freshwater on marine and coastal species is important when considering that many of the species of interest (e.g. marine mammals, turtles, and corals, etc.) in the western Gulf of Mexico are protected via various Gulf of Mexico fishery management plans and international fisheries management agreements. The protected species also occur in both the shallow and deeper water habitats in the Gulf of Mexico. Nearshore habitats are used by nine of 23 protected species, including bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) (NMFS, 2007). The bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins are the most commonly found species in nearshore waters, along with sea turtles. Protected species, such as the Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) use the Gulf of Mexico as their primary spawning grounds. Our research (Muhling et. al., 2015, Muhling et. al., 2016) indicates that they and other tuna billfish species are bound by particular habitat preferences particularly ocean color- chlorophyll concentration and water temperature. Changes in the distribution and concentration of these ocean properties will impact the distribution of spawners of bluefin tuna and many other related species affected by the change in habitat conditions.
The East and West Flower Garden Banks located on the outer edge of the continental shelf, respectively 120 miles and 107 miles southeast of Galveston, Texas, are of concern as well. They have been designated as a National Marine Sanctuary and are in the range of being affected by the Hurricane Harvey freshwater plume. The Flower Garden Banks are considered near the northern physiological limits for tropical hermatypic corals in the Gulf of Mexico and are the northernmost thriving tropical coral reefs on the North American continental shelf (Rezak et al. 1985). The corals have very a specific physio-chemical habitat and the plume water could have a negative impact on the coral’s health.
In addition, understanding the transport of freshwater and the associated turbidity and algae blooms resulting from hurricanes are of interest when evaluating the transport of coastal carbon offshore. Tracking and mapping the extent of this water with a combination of ocean color and infrared imagery along with spatial analysis is necessary and relatively easily achieved to provide this critically needed information for future studies.
This proposed research will improve the understanding of the short-term and long-term impacts of tropical storm events on the fauna and flora in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico, along with the transport and fate of domestic chemicals, and carbon offshore. The beneficial impacts to fisheries managers are that the derived data, i.e., temporal and spatial coverage of the freshwater – enhanced chlorophyll + CDOM plume provided by this project will allow for the development of quantitative catchability indices (q) for stock assessment calculations. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation mandates the use of environmental data in stock assessments and Management Act (MSFCMA, 1976) in ecosystem based fisheries management. Incorporating the environmental conditions will result in improved stock and recruitment assessments and fisheries management. Thus, this research is of high significance and likely to have a long-lasting impact.
Such catchability indices are essential for reducing the variability introduced by a fluctuating environment in stock assessment calculations (Ingram et. al., 2017). Understanding the source of changes in the ocean environment will allow fisheries managers to differentiate between man-made changes in apparent abundance, as derived from fishing mortality, from those changes mediated by environmental variation. State and federal managers will better comprehend when and why specific species may be forced out or into their management jurisdiction from the changing habitat.
Resource managers will be able to use these environmental indices derived from this project to advance their understanding of recruitment variations, including an improved interpretation of shifting centers of successful recruitment. Mangers will also be able to recognize the spatial and temporal changes in the predator-prey relationships as abundances and distributions adjust with changing environmental conditions. This will also enhance the science-based selection or non-selection of marine sanctuaries or other protected areas when looking to achieve certain management goals.
The fish species and species groups likely to be affected by the Hurricane Harvey water include but are not limited to commercially and recreationally important fishes: herrings or shads (Clupeidae); Gulf menhaden (Brevoortia patronus); anchovies (Engraulidae), sea basss (Serranidae), gobies (Gobiidae), jacks (Carangidae), drums or croakers (Sciaenidae) and flounders (Bothidae), sea robins (Triglidae), snappers (Lutjanidae) and porgies (Sparidae), drum species including redfish (Sciaenops ocellatus), tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), mackerels and tunas (Scomridae) including king mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla), Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus), wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri), bluefin tuna, blackfin tuna (Thunnus atlanticus), along with the marlins, blue marlin (Makaira nigricans) and white marlin (Kajikia albidus).
Additionally, mapping the chlorophyll + CDOM from such major tropical storms such as Hurricane Harvey on the distribution, concentration, and fluxes of ocean carbon is critical in understanding the mechanisms related to how carbon cycles through the ocean ecosystem and back to the atmosphere and how important is ocean carbon flux to the Earth’s carbon cycle. Also, it is anticipated that as a result of this project that the fisheries management community will realize the importance of the effect of major storms on the ocean environment and provide increased support for future ocean monitoring across the entire Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere.
Mechanism To Request NASA Support For The Proposed Work.
The Earth and particularly the ocean is a complex dynamic system that we do not fully understand. As the purpose of NASA’s Earth science program is to develop a scientific understanding of Earth’s system and its response to natural or human-induced changes, and to improve prediction of climate, weather, and natural hazards, NASA is the primary agency to support this work. A major component of NASA’s Earth Science Division is a coordinated series of satellite and airborne missions for long-term global observations and monitoring of the land surface, biosphere, solid Earth, atmosphere, and oceans. NASA is the agency that best supports the integration of land, atmospheric and ocean systems with satellite data. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) do not have the most efficient integrated programs that offer support for such responses to Hurricane Harvey. While NOAA’s U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) monitors the ocean with a limited number of assets, they do not have a mechanism to respond quickly to this event. The National Science Foundation’s Rapid Response Research (RAPID) Program is of interest, but their documents (NSF, 2017) indicate that they are more interested in: 1) What was the contribution of the science investment to the creation and retention of jobs?; 2) What was the contribution of the science investment to science and technology industries?; 3) What scientific or technological advances were achieved?; and 4) What was the impact on the scientific workforce?
We will trace the water masses daily and provide weekly summaries in the form of text and graphics. These weekly summaries will be provided on the ROFFS™ website and publicized on social media (Facebook™, Twitter™, and Linkedin™) and the ROFFS™ Fishy Times e-newsletter (extensive free subscription distribution to primarily scientists, fisheries – managers and fishers, but also to the general public). In addition, we will distribute this information directly with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries including The Flower Garden National Marine Sanctuary Program, each state’s fisheries departments along with the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Southeast Fisheries Science Center laboratories in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as, the IOOS headquarters and the their regional association, the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System. We will also solicit other agencies that have interests in the Gulf of Mexico such as the EPA, U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the U.S. Office of Homeland Security – U.S. Coast Guard. We plan on submitting the results to a peer reviewed scientific publication and present our results to at least one national scientific conference.
We will derive ocean color (derived chlorophyll and RGB) and infrared satellite data for the Gulf of Mexico from a variety of polar orbiting satellites including NASA’s MODIS Aqua and Terra, Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP), NOAA’s 15, 18, 19 satellites and the European (ESA) METOP (A and B) satellites. ESA’s Sentinel_3A satellite data will be used when available. While the satellite data are available from a variety of internet servers, we will be using data that has been formatted in a customized manner for ROFFS™ by the University of South Florida Institute for Marine Science (IMaRS) and the University of Delaware ORB Laboratory to facilitate analysis using our proprietary image processing and analysis software.
The satellite data and ROFFS™ sequential satellite image analysis will be used to identify the various water masses associated with the Hurricane Harvey freshwater output plume similar to how we tracked the water after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (Goni et. al., 2015, Muhling et. al., 2012, Mariano et. al., 2011, Acker et. al., 2009) and Hurricane Katrina (ROFFS™, 2005). Basically we identify the signature water masses from either single satellite passes or daily composites and track the water masses using their Lagranian coherent structures. The water masses and extent from the Hurricane Harvey plume will be outlined similarly to the post Katrina analyses as shown in Figure 2.
Weekly extents of the analyses will be converted into geo-referenced images using Esri’s ArcGIS. The spatial analysis using ArcGIS will then provide the derived surface area coverage of the water over time. When and if appropriate, as the water moves and mixes with the surrounding waters we will provide separate color classifications based on the higher and lower derived chlorophyll + CDOM concentration extents. The weekly summaries will be compared to evaluate the changes in the distribution and concentration of the water. A written oceanographic analysis including graphics and text will be distributed to a wide audience as described previously in Section 4.
Based on our experience with tracking the contaminated water related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the tracking the polluted water after Hurricane Katrina and Rita and our extensive knowledge and experience in satellite remote sensing projects this will be a four month tracking effort depending on the difficulty resulting from the mixing and dilution of the water and a function of the time it takes Hurricane Harvey plume being indistinguishable from the surrounding non-Harvey waters.
The work will be a team effort of the Investigators. Mitchell Roffer (PI) has the overall responsibility for the project and for coordinating the efforts of the entire research team. Greg Gawlikowski will be the lead on the image processing and tracking the water masses. Matthew Upton will be the lead on the GIS conversion and spatial analysis. Our team has many years experience tracking water masses related to pollution and fisheries (e.g. Acker et. al., 2009 and Muhling et. al., 2012).
Mitchell A. Roffer, satellite fisheries oceanographer (ROFFS™), the Principal Investigator (PI), has the overall responsibility for the project and for coordinating the efforts of the research team. He has been working with ocean frontal dynamics, highly migratory pelagic species fisheries oceanography and satellites for over 40 years and has been the PI for several NASA and NOAA projects in the Gulf of Mexico over the last 10 years related to habitat modeling, climate change, ocean modeling and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Gregory Gawlikowski, Fisheries Oceanographer, ROFFS™ specializes in satellite derived ocean frontal analyses for operational and research projects. He has experience working on two similar NASA projects and has worked well with this project’s personnel. He will be under the supervision of Mitchell Roffer, PI.
Matthew Upton, Fisheries Oceanographer, ROFFS™ specializes in satellite derived ocean frontal analyses for operational and research projects and GIS experience. He has experience working on three similar NASA projects. He will be under the supervision of Mitchell Roffer, PI.
Each investigator will keep their original data and weekly backups on external drives. For sharing data we have had favorable experience using Dropbox™ Internet cloud services during our last two NASA projects. Data needed by more than one researcher will be shared in this manner. G. Gawlikowski will be the lead on this as he has done this successfully in the past. The SST and ocean color/chlorophyll satellite data will be stored on the ROFFS™ server and available to all participants through a password-protected portal. Relatively small satellite data sets, individual images and weekly oceanographic summaries and maps of interest will be posted to ROFFS™ website (www.roffs.com). All presentations and accepted papers will be stored in this manner. Backup copies of all data, presentations, and publications will be stored on DropBox™ and available upon request.
Image 1 – August 11-17, 2017
Image 2 – August 18-24, 2017
Image 3 – August 25-31, 2017
Image 4 – September 1-7, 2017
Image 5 – September 8-14, 2017
Image 6 – September 15-21, 2017
Image 7 – September 22-28, 2017
Image 8 – September 29 – October 5, 2017
Image 9 – October 6 – October 12, 2017
Image 10 – October 13 – October 19, 2017
Image 11 – October 20 – October 26, 2017
Image 12 – October 27 – November 2, 2017
Image 13 – November 3 – November 9, 2017
Image 14 – November 10 – November 16, 2017
Image 15 – November 17 – November 23, 2017
Image 16 – November 24 – November 30, 2017
Image 17 – December 1 – December 7, 2017
Image 18 – December 8 – December 14, 2017
Image 19 – December 15 – December 21, 2017
Image 20 – December 22 – December 28, 2017
Image 21 – December 29, 2017 – January 4, 2018
Image 22 – January 5 – January 11, 2018
Image 23 – January 12 – January 18, 2018
Image 24 – January 19 – January 25, 2018
Image 25 – January 26 – February 1, 2018