Timescales and Magnitude of Water Quality Change in Three Texas Estuaries Induced by Passage of Hurricane Harvey
Walker, Lily M.
Montagna, Paul A.
Wetz, Michael S.
MetadataShow full item record
Tropical cyclones represent a substantial disturbance to water quality in coastal ecosystems via storm surge, winds, and flooding. However, evidence to date suggests that the impacts of tropical cyclones on water quality are generally short-lived (days-months) and that the magnitude of the disturbance is related to proximity to storm track. Discrete and continuous water samples were collected in three Texas estuaries before and after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in 2017. Of the three estuaries, the Guadalupe Estuary and its watershed received the highest rainfall totals and wind speeds. An ephemeral increase in salinity was observed (mean of 9.8 on 24 August 2017 to a peak of 32.1 on 26 August 2017) due to storm surge and was followed by a rapid decrease to < 1 as floodwaters reached the estuary. Salinity returned to pre-storm levels within 1 month. During the low salinity period, bottom water hypoxia developed and lasted for 9 days. In all three estuaries, there was an increase in inorganic nutrients post-Harvey, but the nutrients largely returned to pre-storm baseline levels by winter. The lack of long-term water quality impacts from Harvey despite its severity corroborates previous findings that estuarine water quality tends to return to baseline conditions within days to a few months after storm passage.