What Does Hurricane Michael Mean for Florida’s Red Tide?

October 17, 2018 7:54 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

If you’re a Florida resident, you’ve probably been closely following the news, both about the red tide situation we’ve had in the state, as well as the recent events with Hurricane Michael. This is good information to catch up on if you’re planning to visit the state any time soon, as well—the effects of the storm and the red tide both can impact the kind of options you have on the water for boat rental, jet skiing and fishing.

It’s also important for locals and tourists alike to get a sense of how Florida’s red tide could be affected by the hurricane itself. Here’s some information to take in.

Surprisingly good news?

Hurricanes are not typically accompanied by anything resembling good news. But if there is a silver lining at all to Hurricane Michael, which increased in severity extremely quickly, it is that the arrival of the storm was expected to lead to some positive changes in the state of the red tide.

For those who do not know, red tide is a condition in which there is an overabundance of a specific type of algae bloom that is toxic to fish and other marine life. When humans are exposed to it, they can become itchy, develop respiratory conditions or possibly even worse conditions. As such, the beaches affected throughout Florida have mostly been dead, as they have not been safe to inhabit.

This has been an ongoing situation for months now, and it has been particularly devastating to communities along the shoreline that depend on water-based tourism for their local economies.

Scientists from the Mote Marine Laboratory based in Sarasota (an area in which the red tide has reportedly caused some respiratory problems for residents) said there have been past incidents in which hurricanes dispelled the toxic algae blooms seen during red tides. There is also the possibility that hurricanes can actually exacerbate the situation, but Florida residents will be happy to cling to the possibility of hope where they can get it, especially in such difficult times.

Whether the hurricane impacts Florida’s red tide primarily depends on the temperatures of the water. If the storm water lowers the temperatures in the water along the shorelines, it could slow or stop the growth of the algae blooms. Red tides have become more frequent and severe because of rising temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, and as climate change becomes more and more severe, they are expected to continue to get worse. But hurricane winds can bring in cooler water, resulting in a cease to the spreading of the bloom.

In addition, the churning of the water caused by the storm could push the algae north, which would mean different communities would have to deal with the problem, but those that have been affected for so long would finally get some relief.

It’s difficult to say what to expect this soon after the storm, but many have their fingers crossed that at least something good will have come out of Hurricane Michael.

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