Effects of Tropical Cyclones on River Chemistry: A Case Study of the Lower Pearl River During Hurricanes Gustav and Ike

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Marine Science


To investigate the effects of tropical cyclones on the water chemistry of Gulf of Mexico coastal rivers, time series samples from the lower Pearl River at Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, were collected on August and September, 2008, during Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Hurricane Gustav, which landed near the sampling site, caused intensive storm surge and strong seawater intrusion, resulting in an elevated salinity of 7.5 in the lower Pearl River and subsequent flooding induced by heavy rainfall. Hurricane Ike, which passed further away from the sampling site, caused only a mild seawater intrusion with a salinity of 1.2 at the sampling site. The river showed distinct variations in water chemistry corresponding to different hydrographic disturbance of hurricanes. Abrupt increase of suspended particulate matter and associated organic carbon and nitrogen concentrations coincided with the intensive storm surge due to coastal sediment resuspension. A remarkable drop in the concentrations of phosphate and dissolved organic matter was also observed during the intense seawater intrusion, a result of both dilution by seawater and resultant flocculation of dissolved organic matter. During hurricane-induced flooding, the river showed a mild increase in the concentrations of organic matter, reflecting a dominant contribution of terrestrial inputs from the watershed by surface runoffs while the concentrations of inorganic nutrient species in the river water decreased. In contrast, water chemistry in the Pearl River underwent little change in most carbon and nutrient species under the mild seawater intrusion. Overall, tropical cyclones could induce unique variations in coastal river water chemistry and variable material export which would further alter the coastal water quality. (c) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science



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