Hurricanes, also known as tropical cyclones, produce strong winds, enormous waves, and intense thunderstorms. They are known to displace hundreds of people from their homes due to flooding and destruction. Due to increasing temperatures resulting from climate change, recent hurricanes have become more severe and have caused more damage than they did in the past. The resulting destruction not only impacts human beings but the environment too.
The enormous waves produced during hurricanes can cause damage to the ocean floor. With this, habitats below the surface, rocks, coral, and reefs can be destroyed or displaced. Animals can be impacted too. Animals that are usually fixed to the ocean floor can even die from being displaced or crushed by debris. Other animals that aren’t stuck to the ocean floor can also be tossed into debris or killed in the chaos.
One of the worst issues hurricanes create for ocean life is that they can disrupt salinity and oxygen levels. Upon reaching land, hurricanes are sometimes able to mix freshwater with salt water, which can lead to uninhabitable conditions and die-offs for some species. For saltwater animals, water with less dissolved oxygen can cause suffocation.
According to an MIT Climate article from earlier this year, a study by Florida Fish and Wildlife found that two hurricanes in 2004 resulted in a drop in ocean salinity from 26% to 15%, which led to a changed fish community. This study illustrates how severe hurricanes can lead to a negatively impacted ecosystem.
In addition to damaging ocean ecosystems, hurricanes also create damage on land and increased pollution. Strong winds and flood waters are responsible for the destruction of homes, gas stations, places of work, farms, and more. Materials and toxins from these demolished locations run off into the ocean and waterways, polluting them and creating an unsustainable habitat for the creatures they harbor.
Flooding from hurricanes also contributes to pollution by moving even more debris from the land, or even marine material, to places they shouldn’t be. Marine animals can consume or be caught in this debris, which can threaten their lives. The resulting decrease in fish also negatively impacts the fishing industry.
Since hurricanes are natural disasters, there isn’t much we can do. However, we can help support those who have been impacted. Hurricane Ian devastated Florida in September and ruined homes, places of work, personal items, and injured and killed many. To aid the people in Florida who have been affected by Hurricane Ian, you can donate to the Red Cross at this link: https://www.redcross.org/donate/hurricane-ian-donations.html/.
How do hurricanes affect coastal and ocean life? MIT Climate Portal. (n.d.). Retrieved October 6, 2022, from https://climate.mit.edu/ask-mit/how-do-hurricanes-affect-coastal-and-ocean-life
US Department of Commerce, N. O. and A. A. (2017, April 21). How do hurricanes affect sea life?? NOAA's National Ocean Service. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/hurricanes-sea-life.html#:~:text=As%20the%20hurricane%20grows%20larger,deadly%20havoc%20on%20marine%20life.