• Seaside Sustainability

2020 Hurricane Season & the Effect on Marine Environments

Written by: Julia Shields-Thomas

One very prominent thing in the news right now is the sheer number of tropical cyclones (hurricanes and other storms) forming in our oceans, specifically the Atlantic Ocean, during this hurricane season. There have been so many this year already that the list of names has run dry so the Greek alphabet is now being utilized to name the storms. It is officially a record season. 2020 has seen the most storms in the shortest amount of time in recorded history. There have only been two other years that the list of human names ran out, one of which was 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit.

Some of the main factors that go into a tropical cyclone’s formation are warm ocean water and seasonal weather patterns. This year, those things unfortunately are lining up just right to make for a very active season. The warm ocean waters can be, in part, attributed to climate change. One of the main warnings about climate change is the rising temperatures of the oceans. The ramifications of this include sea level rise, increased frequency and intensity of storms, and harmful effects on marine life.

Warm oceans have an effect on marine life through ocean acidification, the storms disrupting their home, and the temperature rise changing marine life’s natural environment. When a hurricane hits, the waves can reach heights up to 18.3 meters, or 60 feet and the currents under the water can reach as far as a half of a mile in all directions. Oftentimes, these intense surges can break corals, and the decreased salinity of the water further damages them. The mayhem that these storms bring under the water also kicks up mud and sand which eliminates the sunlight that the corals and other sea life rely on to live. Large animals, that live deeper below the surface, are able to quickly get to somewhere calmer, but the slower animals that do not move as quickly (turtles, slow moving fish, and shellfish) are subject to the effects of these storms and it is often detrimental to them.

Working to mitigate climate change has the potential for many positive effects, but mitigating record-setting storms is a big one. Our oceans are a vital source of life for us here on Earth and if we continue at the rate we are going, our marine life will continue to suffer as will the people who live and own businesses in coastal areas that are repeatedly getting hit by these storms.