The Atlantic hurricane and its effect on Caribbean ecosystems

This topic submitted by Robert Magorien ( at 8:08 PM on 3/24/04.

Travis had a blast exploring Lighthouse Cave on San Salvador, Bahamas. See other beautiful phenomena from the Bahamas.

Tropical Field Courses -Western Program-Miami University

I propose to discuss the violent yet important history that Atlantic hurricanes have played in shaping the fragile Caribbean ecosystem. To begin, the hurricane will be diagnosed from a meteorological standpoint from its inception in the warm waters off of western Africa to its death in and around the Caribbean. With this view, the very notion of the hurricane’s power and structure are initially understood in order to support its various effects on the coastal/topical ecosystem. The meteorological terms will also be fully explained in order to convey the most concise information possible from initial stages of development to the more mature cyclone and its growth and trajectory in relation to outside parameters (i.e. frontal systems and the coriolis effect).
The next segment will primarily focus on the history of the Atlantic hurricane (including significant impacts to the Caribbean and the states) with a focus on its effects to the ecology of the Caribbean islands. This segment will hopefully explain how the hurricane plays an important role in shaping the ecology of the islands both from a biological and oceanographic perspective. Also, through the use of historic hurricanes and their effects on Caribbean forests and coastlines, I will explain the process of recovery that these communities face from both an economic and ecologic perspective. In conclusion, the hurricane will be discussed in the light of global climate change in terms of both natural and man-induced scenarios. With global warming as an unfortunate consequence of an urban world, the weather patterns of the earth will similarly be affected and contribute to more unstable and violent weather phenomena. Using conclusive evidence, I will attempt to make a deduction myself on the effects that our present climate change will have on the season, lifecycle, and frequency of tropical weather.

I. Intro Paragraph/Thesis statement
II. Physics of the hurricane
A. Seasonal significance
1. Geographical distribution
2. Climatic factors
B. The perfect “ingredients”
1. Latitudinal advantage
2. Water temp
3. Air circulation (i.e. heat transfer)
C. Propagation and dissipation
1. Trajectory
2. Strengthening/weakening
3. Downgrading and dissipating
III. Historical Trends
A. The Caribbean climate and its effect on the hurricane (data compiled over a hundred year period)
B. Historical storms and their effects on the Caribbean ecosystem
1. 1935 Labor Day
2. Camile
3. Hugo
4. Andrew
5. Floyd
C. Economy versus Ecology
IV. Specific Case Studies
A. Puerto Rico after Hugo
B. The Bahamas after Andrew/Floyd
C. On the Road to recovery (segue into conclusion)
V. Conclusion (the future of the hurricane and research)

Electronic Journals

• Banner I. Miller. Characteristics of Hurricanes
• D. Jean Lodge and William McDowell. Summary of Ecosystem-level Effects of Caribbean Hurricanes
• E. V. J. Tanner, V. Kapos, and J. R. Healey. Hurricane Effects on Forest Ecosystems in the Caribbean
• Emery R. Boose, David R. Foster, and Marcheterre Fluet. Hurricane Impacts to Tropical and Temperate Forest Landscapes
• Jess K. Zimmerman, Michael R. Willig, Lawrence R. Walker, and Whendee L. Silver. Introduction: Disturbance and Caribbean Ecosystems
• Lawrence R. Walker, D. Jean Lodge, Nicholas V. L. Brokaw, and Robert B. Waide. An Introduction to Hurricanes in the Caribbean
• T. P. Hughes and J.H. Connell. Multiple stressors on coral reefs: A long-term perspective
• Thomas R. Knutsom, Robert E. Tuleya, and Yoshio Kurihara. Simulated Increase of Hurricane Intensities in a CO2 Warmed Climate

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