How Hurricanes Affect Our Coral Reefs

hurricane-92968_960_720Hurricanes are an extreme weather phenomenon that occurs over primarily warm oceans. Hurricanes not only cause devastation on land, but also cause widespread destruction to shallow marine ecosystems (such as coral reefs) too. When hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean and The Florida Keys in September 2017, coral reefs were left devastated (it is to be noted that the reefs were already bleached and diseased before Irma hit). The impact of hurricane Irma was catastrophic to coral reefs in the areas worst hit by the storm. Coral reefs usually act as a natural barrier against storms and waves, but under stress, their defence weakens. The weakened structure means that corals are broken, damaged and destroyed from the high winds and strong waves that accompany it. As a result entire ecosystems are under threat and can be potentially lost.

But why is this a human impact? With the current rate at which our climate is changing, hurricanes (and other severe weather) are becoming more frequent and more severe.  The main cause of climate change is heat and UV radiation being trapped on the Earth’s surface by the greenhouse gas layer (produced primarily by human activities such as burning coal and agriculture). As a result of the trapped heat, the oceans have been getting warmer which thus leads to more intensive hurricanes.

However, this can be avoided. One such method is lowering your carbon footprint. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, by lowering your carbon footprint there is a lower percentage of carbon dioxide within the greenhouse layer and thus less heat and UV radiation is trapped (this can be applied to most greenhouse gases). With movements towards more renewable energy solutions becoming more prominent then hopefully this greenhouse effect can be controlled reducing the threat to coral reefs.

-C

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