Timescales and magnitude of water quality changes in three Texas estuaries induced by the passage of Hurricane Harvey




Walker, Lily


Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title




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 (the Lavaca-Colorado, the Guadalupe, and the Nueces-Corpus) on the Gulf of Mexico coast 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 one month. During the low salinity period, bottom water hypoxia developed and lasted for nine 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.



biogeochemistry, climate change, estuaries, hurricane, Texas, water quality



This material is made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user assumes full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used should be fully credited with its source. All rights are reserved and retained regardless of current or future development or laws that may apply to fair use standards. Permission for publication of this material, in part or in full, must be secured with the author and/or publisher.