Focused Study of Interweaving Hazards Across the Caribbean

Braun J.J, Mattioli G.S., Calais E. Focused Study of Interweaving Hazards Across the Caribbean. EOS Vol. 93, No 9, 28 Feb 2012.

The Caribbean is a region of lush vegetation, beaches, active volcanoes, and significant mountain ranges, all of which create a natural aesthetic that is recognized globally. Yet these very same features, molded through geological, oceanic, and atmospheric processes, also pose natural hazards for the developing countries in the Caribbean. The rise in population density, migration to coastal areas, and substandard building practices, combined with the threat of natural hazards, put the region’s human population at risk for particularly devastating disasters. These demographic and social characteristics exist against a backdrop of the threat of an evolving climate, which produces a more vigorous hurricane environment and a rising average sea level. The 12 January 2010 earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Ike (2008) both caused widespread destruction and loss of life, illustrating the need for a scientific focus on the underlying natural hazards of the Caribbean. Prompted by these and other events, a new National Science Foundation (NSF)– funded initiative known as the Continuously Operating Caribbean Observation Network (COCONet), which commits roughly $7 million over 5 years to a collaborative natural hazard research team, was formed in 2010. This team includes researchers from UNAVCO, Purdue University, University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)

The 13C Suess effect in scleractinian corals mirror changes in the anthropogenic CO2 inventory of the surface oceans

Swart, Peter K., Lisa Greer, Brad E. Rosenheim, Chris S. Moses, Amanda J. Waite, A. Winter, Richard E. Dodge, and Kevin Helmle. 2010. The (13)C suess effect in scleractinian corals mirror changes in the anthropogenic CO(2) inventory of the surface oceans RID A-1675-2011 RID B-5241-2011. Geophysical Research Letters 37 (MAR 12): L05604.

Newd13C data are presented from 10 coral skeletons collected from Florida and elsewhere in the Caribbean (Dominica, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Belize). These corals range from 96 to 200 years in age and were collected between 1976 and 2002. The change in the d13C of the skeletons from these corals between 1900 and 1990 has been compared with 27 other published coral records from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. The new data presented here make possible, for the first time, a global comparison of rates of change in the d13C value of coral skeletons. Of these records, 64% show a statistically significant (p < 0.05) decrease in d13C towards the modern day (23 out of 37). This decrease is attributable to the addition of anthropogenically derived CO2 (13C Suess effect) to the atmosphere. Between 1900 and 1990, the average rate of change of the d13C in all the coral skeletons living under open oceanic conditions is approximately −0.01‰ yr−1. In the Atlantic Ocean the magnitude of the decrease since 1960,−0.019 yr−1 ±0.015‰, is essentially the same as the decrease in the d13C of atmospheric CO2 and the d13C of the oceanic dissolved inorganic carbon (−0.023 to −0.029‰ yr−1), while in the Pacific and Indian Oceans the rate is more variable and significantly reduced (−0.007‰ yr−1 ±0.013). These data strongly support the notion that (i) the d13C of the atmosphere controls ambient d13C of the dissolved inorganic carbon which in turn is reflected in the coral skeletons, (ii) the rate of decline in the coral skeletons is higher in oceans with a greater anthropogenic CO2 inventory in the surface oceans, (iii) the rate of d13C decline is accelerating. Superimposed on these secular variations are controls on the d13C in the skeleton governed by growth rate, insolation, and local water masses. Citation: Swart, P. K., L. Greer, B. E. Rosenheim, C. S. Moses, A. J. Waite, A. Winter, R. E. Dodge, and K. Helmle (2010), The 13C Suess effect in scleractinian corals mirror changes in the anthropogenic CO2 inventory of the surface oceans, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L05604, doi:10.1029/2009GL041397.

Testing coral-based tropical cyclone reconstructions: An example from puerto rico

Kilbourne, K. Halimeda, Ryan P. Moyer, Terrence M. Quinn, and Andrea G. Grottoli. 2011. Testing coral-based tropical cyclone reconstructions: An example from puerto rico. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 307 (1-4) (JUL 1): 90-7.

Complimenting modern records of tropical cyclone activity with longer historical and paleoclimatological records would increase our understanding of natural tropical cyclone variability on decadal to centennial time scales. Tropical cyclones produce large amounts of precipitation with significantly lower δ18O values than normal precipitation, and hence may be geochemically identifiable as negative δ18O anomalies in marine carbonate δ18O records. This study investigates the usefulness of coral skeletal δ18O as a means of reconstructing past tropical cyclone events. Isotopic modeling of rainfall mixing with seawater shows that detecting an isotopic signal from a tropical cyclone in a coral requires a salinity of ~33 psu at the time of coral growth, but this threshold is dependent on the isotopic composition of both fresh and saline end-members. A comparison between coral δ18O and historical records of tropical cyclone activity, river discharge, and precipitation from multiple sites in Puerto Rico shows that tropical cyclones are not distinguishable in the coral record from normal rainfall using this approach at these sites.

Seasonal changes in sea surface temperature and salinity during the little ice age in the caribbean sea deduced from Mg/Ca and O-18/O-16 ratios in corals

Watanabe, T., A. Winter, and T. Oba. 2001. Seasonal changes in sea surface temperature and salinity during the little ice age in the caribbean sea deduced from Mg/Ca and O-18/O-16 ratios in corals. Marine Geology 173 (1-4) (MAR 15): 21-35.

The oxygen isotropic composition (delta 18O) of coral skeletons reflects a combination of sea surface temperature (SST) and the delta 18O of seawater, which is related to sea surface salinity (SSS). In contrast, the magnesium/Calcium (Mg/Ca) ratio of a coral skeleton reflects SST independent of Salinity. by using the relationships among coral Mg/Ca ratios, coral delta 18), seawater delta 18O and SST, it is possible to determine past SST and SS uniquely. Such determinations were made and calibrated using the Mg/Ca ratio and the delta 18O of the modern part of a 3 m long coral core (Monastrea faveolata) collected from the southwest coast of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea where both SST and SSS changes seasonally and the seawater delta 18O measured at the coral site....

Paleoclimate proxy perspective on Caribbean climate since the year 1751: Evidence of cooler temperatures and multidecadal variability

Kilbourne, K. H., T. M. Quinn, R. Webb, T. Guilderson, J. Nyberg, and A. Winter. 2008. Paleoclimate proxy perspective on caribbean climate since the year 1751: Evidence of cooler temperatures and multidecadal variability RID A-5755-2008. Paleoceanography 23 (3) (SEP 19): PA3220.

Annually resolved coral d18O and Sr/Ca records from southwestern Puerto Rico are used to investigate Caribbean climate variability between 1751 and 2004 C.E. Mean surface ocean temperatures in this region have increased steadily by about 2C since the year 1751, with Sr/Ca data indicating 2.1 ± 0.8C and d18O data indicating 2.7 ± 0.5C. Coral geochemical records from across the tropics demonstrate that regional variability is important for understanding climate variations at centennial time scales. A strong multidecadal salinity signal in the oxygen isotope data correlates with observed multidecadal temperature variations in the Northern Hemisphere. Instrumental wind and precipitation data indicate that the most recent coral isotopic variations are caused by expansion and contraction of the steep regional salinity gradient, forced by trade wind anomalies through meridional Ekman transport. The timing of the fluctuations suggests that the multidecadal-scale wind and surface circulation anomalies might play a role in Atlantic temperature variability and meridional overturning circulation, but further work is needed to confirm this suggestion.

Evaluation of the fidelity of isotope records as an environmental proxy in the coral Montastraea

Watanabe, T., A. Winter, T. Oba, R. Anzai, and H. Ishioroshi. 2002. Evaluation of the fidelity of isotope records as an environmental proxy in the coral montastraea. Coral Reefs 21 (2) (JUL): 169-78.

Many studies of climate variability in the Tropical Ocean have used high-resolution chemical tracer records contained in coral skeletons. The complex architecture of coral skeletons may lead to the possibility of biases in coral records and it is therefore important to access the fidelity of coral geochemical records as environmental proxies. Coral skeletal records from the same coral colony, and even the same corallite, may show large variation due to differing extension rates, formational timing of the skeletal elements, colony topography, and sampling resolution. To assess the robustness of the skeletal record, we present d13C and d18O data based on different sampling resolutions, skeletal elements, and coral colonies of Montastraea faveolata species complex, the primary coral used for climate reconstruction in the Atlantic. We show that various skeletal elements produce different isotopic records. The best sampling rate to resolve the full annual range of sea surface temperature (SST) is 40 samples per year. This sampling frequency also consistently recovered SST variability measured at weekly intervals. A sampling rate of 12 times per year recovered 84% of the annual range recording average monthly SST changes through the year. Six samples per year significantly decreased the ability to resolve the annual SST range. The d18O recorded from two adjacent colonies were very similar, suggesting that this isotope can be trusted to record environmental changes. The d13C, on the other hand, remained highly variable, perhaps as a result of the activity of symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae).

Review of Use of Isotopes in Studying the Natural History of Puerto Rico

Evaristo J. Review of Use of Isotopes in Studying the Natural History of Puerto Rico. University of Pennsylvania. 2012.

This review summarizes the earth and environmental science research papers in Puerto Rico that used isotopic techniques between 1965 and 2011. The range of applications in isotope-related research in Puerto Rico has grown steadily, led by the ubiquitous utility of stable isotope ratios in biogeochemical (δ13C, δ15N) and ecological (δ13C, δ15N, δD) research. Moreover, research in climatology has grown in recent years, spanning from the evaluation of the fidelity of isotope records (δ18O, δ13C) as an environmental proxy to the elucidation of multidecadal variability for paleoclimate reconstructions (δ18O and Sr/Ca). On the other hand, in addition to using isotope ratios, hydrological studies in Puerto Rico have also used trace element data to answer flow source (δD, δ18O, 87Sr/86Sr) and solute source (Ge/Si) questions, as well as in examining groundwater/surface flow relationships (222Rn). Finally, various isotope data have been used in trying to understand geomorphological (10Be, δ30Si) and geophysical (Pb, Nd, and Sr) phenomena. It is hoped that this review will be able to contribute to stimulating future interests in isotope-related research as applicable in the LCZO or Puerto Rico, in particular, and/or in comparable humid tropical settings, in general.

Wet canopy evaporation from a Puerto Rican lower montane rain forest: the importance of realistically estimated aerodynamic conductance

Holwerda F., Bruijnzeel L.A., Scatena F.N., Vugts H.F., Meesters A.G.C.A 2011. Wet canopy evaporation from a Puerto Rican lower montane rain forest: the importance of realistically estimated aerodynamic conductance. In press Journal of Hydrology

Rainfall interception (I) was measured in 20 m tall Puerto Rican tropical forest with complex topography for a one-year period using totalizing throughfall (TF) and stemflow (SF) gauges that were measured every 2–3 days. Measured values were then compared to evaporation under saturated canopy conditions (E) determined with the Penman-Monteith (P-M) equation, using (i) measured (eddy covariance) and (ii) calculated (as a function of forest height and wind speed) values for the aerodynamic conductance to momentum flux (ga,M). E was also derived using the energy balance equation and the sensible heat flux measured by a sonic anemometer (Hs). I per sampling occasion was strongly correlated with rainfall (P): I = 0.21P + 0.60 (mm), r2 = 0.82, n = 121. Values for canopy storage capacity (S = 0.37 mm) and the average relative evaporation rate (E/R = 0.20) were derived from data for single events (n = 51). Application of the Gash analytical interception model to 70 multiple-storm sampling events using the above values for S and E/R gave excellent agreement with measured I. For E/R = 0.20 and an average rainfall intensity (R) of 3.16 mm h-1, the TF-based E was 0.63 mm h-1, about four times the value derived with the P-M equation using a conventionally calculated ga,M (0.16 mm h-1). Estimating ga,M using wind data from a nearby but more exposed site yielded a value of E (0.40 mm h-1) that was much closer to the observed rate, whereas E derived using the energy balance equation and Hs was very low (0.13 mm h-1), presumably because Hs was underestimated due to the use of too short a flux-averaging period (5-min). The best agreement with the observed E was obtained when using the measured ga,M in the P-M equation (0.58 mm h-1). The present results show that in areas with complex topography, ga,M, and consequently E, can be strongly underestimated when calculated using equations that were derived originally for use in flat terrain; hence, direct measurement of ga,M using eddy covariance is recommended. The currently measured ga,M (0.31 m s-1) was at least several times, and up to one order of magnitude higher than values reported for forests in areas with flat or gentle topography (0.03–0.08 m s-1, at wind speeds of about 1 m s-1). The importance of ga,M at the study site suggests a negative, downward, sensible heat flux sustains the observed high evaporation rates during rainfall. More work is needed to better quantify Hs during rainfall in tropical forests with complex topography.

Twelve testable hypotheses on the Geobiology of weathering

Brantley S.L., Megonigal J.P., Scatena F.N. et al 2010. Twelve testable hypotheses on the Geobiology of weathering. Geobiology. DOI: 10.1111/j.1472-4669.2010.00264.x

Critical Zone (CZ) research investigates the chemical, physical, and biological processes that modulate the Earth’s surface. Here, we advance 12 hypotheses that must be tested to improve our understanding of the CZ: (1) Solar-to-chemical conversion of energy by plants regulates flows of carbon, water, and nutrients through plant-microbe soil networks, thereby controlling the location and extent of biological weathering. (2) Biological stoichiometry drives changes in mineral stoichiometry and distribution through weathering. (3) On landscapes experiencing little erosion, biology drives weathering during initial succession, whereas weathering drives biology over the long term.(4) In eroding landscapes, weathering-front advance at depth is coupled to surface denudation via biotic processes.(5) Biology shapes the topography of the Critical Zone.(6) The impact of climate forcing on denudation rates in natural systems can be predicted from models incorporating biogeochemical reaction rates and geomorphological transport laws.(7) Rising global temperatures will increase carbon losses from the Critical Zone.(8) Rising atmospheric PCO2 will increase rates and extents of mineral weathering in soils.(9) Riverine solute fluxes will respond to changes in climate primarily due to changes in water fluxes and secondarily through changes in biologically mediated weathering.(10) Land use change will impact Critical Zone processes and exports more than climate change. (11) In many severely altered settings, restoration of hydrological processes is possible in decades or less, whereas restoration of biodiversity and biogeochemical processes requires longer timescales.(12) Biogeochemical properties impart thresholds or tipping points beyond which rapid and irreversible losses of ecosystem health, function, and services can occur.

Climate is affected more by maritime than by continental land use change: A multiple scale analysis

Van der Molen, M. K., Dolman, A. J.,Waterloo, M. J. and Bruijnzeel, L.
A. 2006. Climate is affected more by maritime than by continental land
use change: A multiple scale analysis. Global and Planetary Change,
54, 128–149.

Tropical deforestation appears to have larger impacts on local, regional and global climate when it occurs under maritime conditions rather then under continental conditions. At the local scale, we compare results from a field experiment in Puerto Rico with other long-term studies of the changes in surface fluxes after deforestation. Changes in surface fluxes are larger in maritime situations because a number of feedback mechanisms appears less relevant (e.g. the dependency of soil moisture on recycling of water and the larger reduction of net radiation in the wet season due to clouds in continental regions). Pastures may evaporate at similarly high rates as forests when soil moisture is sufficient, which has a strong reducing effect on the sensible heat flux after deforestation. At the regional scale (∼102 km2), model simulations show that the meso-scale sea breeze circulation under maritime conditions is more effective in transporting heat and moisture to the upper troposphere than convection is in the continental case. Thus islands function as triggers of convection, whereas the intensity of the sea breeze-trigger is sensitive to land use change. At the global scale, using satellite-derived latent heating rates of the upper troposphere, it is shown that 40% of the latent heating associated with deep convection takes place in the Maritime Continent (Indonesia and surroundings) and may be produced mostly by small islands. Continents contribute only 20% of the latent heating of the upper troposphere. Thus, sea breeze circulations exert significant influence on the Hadley cell circulation. These results imply that, from a climate perspective, further deforestation studies would do well to focus more on maritime conditions.
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