Assessing the potential for tropical cyclone induced sea surface cooling to reduce thermal stress on the world's coral reefs

Authors

  • A. D. Carrigan,

    1. Institute for Conservation Biology and Environmental Management and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
    2. School of Earth Sciences, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA
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  • M. L. Puotinen

    1. Institute for Conservation Biology and Environmental Management and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
    2. School of Earth Sciences, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA
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Abstract

[1] Coral reefs face an uncertain future as rising sea surface temperature (SST) continues to lead to increasingly frequent and intense mass bleaching. At broad spatial scales, tropical cyclone (TC) induced cooling of the upper ocean (SST drops up to 6° C persisting for weeks) reduces thermal stress and accelerates recovery of bleached corals - yet the global prevalence and spatial distribution of this effect remains undocumented and unquantified. A global dataset (1985–2009) of TC wind exposure was constructed and examined against existing thermal stress data to address this. Significant correlations were found between TC activity and the severity of thermal stress at various spatial scales, particularly for Caribbean reefs. From this, it is apparent that TCs play a role in bleaching dynamics at a global scale. However, the prevalence and distribution of this interaction varies by region and requires further examination at finer spatial and temporal scales using actual SST data.

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