December 31, 2013 at 6:00 pm #1890MikeKeymaster
Fish Die-Offs Along East Coast — Several Articles
Was Weather to Blame for Massachusetts, New Jersey Fish Kill?
By Alex Sosnowski, Expert Senior Meteorologist
Aug 13, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
[What are chemical aerosols and ELF waves from HAARP doing to the water and wildlife in our oceans? — MC]
[Most of the articles were gone by the time I got around to looking them up — MC]
Unusually warm waters and a common weather occurrence may be to blame for massive fish die-offs in Massachusetts and New Jersey this week.
If the whole concept of warm water killing fish seems a little fishy to you, read on.
Ocean water temperatures offshore of the eastern U.S. coast in the Atlantic have been running several degrees above normal so far this summer.
While a common phenomenon, known as upwelling, was producing pockets of cool weather in coastal areas of New England and the mid-Atlantic through midsummer, a recent sudden shift of surface winds, known as “onshore flow,” brought unusually warm waters close to the coast.
In both cases, the species of fish that died in Massachusetts and New Jersey was menhaden. This sudden onshore flow may have brought a rise in water temperatures that was too fast for menhaden to handle.
Experts have noted that this species of fish, commonly used as bait, is rather sensitive to changes in temperature.
Pogies swim to the surface of the ocean as they are caught in nets by fishermen along a cove in West Bath, Maine, on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008. Fishermen use the fish as bait for lobstering. Back in the 1980s it was a common occurrence for vast schools of menhaden to be chased into various Maine coves along the shoreline by bluefish. Marine officials reported that the hundreds of thousands of fish would severely deplete the oxygen in the water, causing them to die along with other aquatic life.
Typically, during mid-August, water temperatures along the Massachusetts coast average 68 to 72 degrees. In the Delaware Bay, water temperatures average 74 to 78 degrees. Water temperatures in the vicinity at the time of the discovery of the dead fish were 72 to 76 degrees and 81 to 85 degrees respectively. However, temperatures in the shallows could have been even several degrees higher for a multi-hour period.
Warm water holds less oxygen than cool water.
Experts have been speculating that the fish may have been forced close to shore by predators such as bluefish, dolphins, sharks or seals. These species are more active in warm water.
In shallow waters, temperatures may have further spiked during the day from intense sunshine and sea breezes drawing in warm surface water.
Massive numbers of the fish moving into the shallows in turn could have caused oxygen levels to drop below the critical point for fish to survive.
It is possible the sudden shift in the winds also brought a sudden change in the PH levels (alkaline vs. acidic).
While many fish can adjust to gradual changes in PH, sudden changes could be fatal to certain species.
Experts in both cases stated that the fish were probably dead a few days before they washed up on the beaches along the Delaware Bay and Massachusetts.
The Department of Environmental Protection tested the waters and found no evidence of elevated levels of bacteria, algae and chemicals, or reduced oxygen.
This added more mystery as to why they died, as conditions undoubtedly changed a bit from when they were killed.
Rainfall over the land can cause nutrient-rich water to wash out through bays and estuaries, contributing to spikes in algae and bacteria. However, in both cases, there was virtually no rain inland to run off, eliminating the algae and bacteria factor.
The weather pattern over the next seven to 10 days will allow for more swings and spikes in temperature caused by a warm onshore flow verses cool upwelling.
While these occurrences go on all the time throughout the year, it seems the unusually warm waters may be the critical component, and not microbes or pollution, in both cases of the fish kills in Massachusetts and New Jersey recently.
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