The slice of ocean squeezed between Florida and the Bahamas is without doubt one of the most well-studied marine environments on this planet, and but it is also the epicenter of a long-lasting geological thriller.
Since at the least the Thirties, scientists within the area have seen unusual, billowing white clouds showing within the turquoise tranquility of the water’s floor.
The curious phenomenon known as a ‘whiting occasion’, and scientists nonetheless do not perceive why it happens within the Bahamas.
It has develop into a kind of ‘white whale’ for researchers on the close by College of South Florida (USF).
The perplexing patches of light-colored ocean are generally seen in different oceans and lakes worldwide, however within the Bahamas, they pop up extra typically than typical.
Direct sampling of the cloudy waters suggests they include excessive concentrations of carbonate-rich particles.
A lot of the Bahama archipelago sits on a submerged platform of carbonate referred to as the Bahama Banks. Does this imply sediments are rising to the floor? Or may or not it’s that blooms of phytoplankton are literally producing the suspended materials?
Nobody is aware of the solutions to these questions, however scientists at USF are decided to seek out out. They’ve used satellite tv for pc pictures from NASA to indicate how whiting occasions ebb and movement within the Bahamas.
The workforce does not know if the tendencies they’ve recognized are pure or human-caused, however what they do know is that from 2003 to 2020, the dimensions of those whiting occasions appeared to correlate with the seasons.
The most important patches occurred from March to Could and October to December. On common, the white patches have been about 2.4 sq. kilometers a bit. On a day with clear skies, satellite tv for pc pictures normally snapped about 24 of them, overlaying a complete space of 32 sq. kilometers (12 sq. miles).
Between 2011 and 2015, nevertheless, the patches immediately swelled in measurement, overlaying greater than 200 sq. kilometers of the ocean at their peak (77 sq. miles). By 2019, nevertheless, the patches shrunk once more, though they by no means bought fairly as small as that they had beforehand been.
The findings counsel a 10-year cycle is likely to be at play. However a cycle of what precisely?
“I want I may let you know why we noticed that peak in exercise, however we’re not there but,” says USF oceanographer Chuanmin Hu.
“We do see some attention-grabbing relationships between environmental circumstances, such because the pH, the salinity of water, and the habits of winds and currents, however we won’t but say what precise mechanical, organic, or chemical processes have been accountable for that peak in exercise.”
Extra direct subject experiments are wanted, and never simply within the Bahamas. Evaluating whiting occasions in different areas may assist scientists work out what options they share in frequent.
USF researchers examined their mannequin on whiting occasions within the Nice Lakes with preliminary success, however now must again up these patterns on the bottom, or reasonably, within the water.
August 2 Satellite tv for pc view of the Pyramid Lake Whiting occasion in its early phases pic.twitter.com/SoPltG1lG3
— Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (@plpt) August 10, 2020
Some research, as an illustration, have proven that whiting occasions occur extra in locations with muddy sediments.
As well as, it might be that some ocean circumstances favor the suspension of sediments and calcium carbonate within the water column. As talked about earlier than, current satellite tv for pc information suggests white patches within the Bahamas are extra frequent in spring and winter, and that is when the Florida currents that run north to south change.
With out extra proof, all of those theories will stay simply that.
The examine was revealed in Distant Sensing of Atmosphere.