Dominoes, Floods, and The Great Barrier Reef
The Queensland, Australia floods have been in the news for the past couple of months, but even after the floodwater recedes the affects of the situation will continue to devastate the continent. I’ve upload a satellite image that provides a unique look at the floodwater as it destroys life/property on land and advances into the ocean.
If you look just north of Gladstone you will see a brown plume starting to flow into the ocean. This contaminated floodwater, influenced by surface wind patterns, will continue to pour northward into the Reef. Despite the water being comparable to untreated water in a third world country, the fecal coliform colonies are not the greatest risk to the Reef…it’s the creation of large amounts of algae.
As the carbon and nitrogen rich waters reach the ocean, the biggest fear is a possible “algal bloom” and eventual explosion of the starfish population. Don’t get me wrong, the initial impacts from too much freshwater or pesticide packed H20 will be devastating to coral, but an algal bloom will have a deeper, long-standing scar on the Great Barrier Reef.
Contaminated floodwaters reach the ocean » Ocean responds by producing excess Algae » Algae feeds starfish larvae » mature starfish feast on coral » starfish populations increase exponentially while coral populations diminish significantly.
The timing of the sequence of events will last a little longer than your average living room Domino maze. In the Great Barrier Reef’s case these events will take roughly three years to play out. Accordingly, the recovery of the Reef from a starfish boom is estimated to take 25 years… and this does not even take into account additional flooding events in years ahead.
Meteorology Tidbit Regarding the Australian Floods:
Most of these heavy rainfall events have come without a lot of strong convection. Meaning, thunderstorm/severe weather activity was limited and not even “on the radar” these past couple of months. Specifically, 50 Queensland locations recorded the highest November rainfall in 20 years, but recorded 0 days of thunder. The key player with these floods can be attributed to a strong La Nina. In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia usually experiences above average rainfall in their summer months. Keep in mind that their summer is our winter.
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