While most of us shudder at the thought of hurricane season, there is one colorful ocean dweller that actually benefits from these tropical cyclones. According to Derek Manzello, who studies the life of coral reefs at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, Florida, hurricanes can bring up cooler waters from the depths of the ocean and bring aid to coral reefs that are in danger of bleaching. This act of circulating cool water is known as upwelling.

Corals have tiny organisms called Coral Polyps that contain photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae, which provide the coral with food and bright coloring. Coral bleaching takes place when zooxanthellae leave the coral, due to increased water temperatures or other stress factors. Because the coral has no way of feeding itself, it eventually dies. However with the help of hurricanes, water temperatures are brought down and the coral is able to recover in about 1 month.

In 2005, coral reefs in the Caribbean suffered the most damage and bleaching due to very high water temperatures. However, they recovered much faster than nearby reefs. The winds from all of the tropical cyclones that passed within 435 miles of the Florida Reef Tract east of the Florida Keys lowered the surrounding sea surface temperatures by as much as 5.8 degrees F.

Occurences like these are good reminders that, even under the most terrifying circumstances, Mother Nature has a way of finding something good.


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