Harvey’s Runoff Takes Toll on the Coast

This satellite image provided by NASA on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017 shows Hurricane Harvey off the Gulf of Mexico. Harvey intensified as it steered toward the Texas coast on Friday, with forecasters saying it had strengthened to a Category 2 storm with the potential to swamp communities more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) inland. (NASA via AP)

By Don Morgan

We all saw the devastation Hurricane Harvey created as it slammed into the Texas coastline. What you probably haven’t seen is the damage it’s doing under the sea.

Adrian Correa at Rice University tells us the fresh water runoff from Harvey is threatening the coral reefs at the Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary.

“Harvey produced more than 13 trillion gallons of rain over southeast Texas. That water is now flowing through the Gulf.”

The problem is all that freshwater is creating dangerous conditions for the coral reef, which only thrives in saltwater.

Measuring the damage will take some time as the impact isn’t going to happen in the short term.

Correa says the freshwater is causing a drop in the salinity of the sea water. That can cause a “die off” of sections of the reef. Once that occurs, other sea life will be impacted as well.

Lobster, sponges and other life that rely on the coral reef for shelter will be forced further out into the ocean. Other sea life, including some species of fish, will follow.

The freshwater plume will continue to flow south, having impact on sea life all along the gulf coast.

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