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Can Shark Attacks Predict Hurricanes?

18 Sep 2016, 7:11 pm

3 surfers were bitten by sharks Sunday off the shore of the same east Florida beach.  While Florida’s WESH-TV reports that all 3 are expected to survive, one wonders, why did this happen?

Lifeguards at Pyramid Rock Beach post a sign warning about a shark sighting, June 17, 2015. All beach goers must stay out of the water for a 45-minute period after signs are posted. Signs remain up at the beach after the 45-minute period to warn future visitors of the earlier sighting. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Christine Cabalo)

Sharks, like other highly migratory fish, are affected by tropical storms.  Three tropical storms raced across the Atlantic over the past several days creating some conditions which may attract more sharks to the eastern shores of the country. Researchers from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science discovered a surprising connection between sharks and tropical storms.

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Jerald S. Ault, UM Rosenstiel School professor of marine biology and ecology, says “hurricanes and highly migratory fish share at least one common oceanographic interest – warm swirling ocean eddies.” Tropical storm systems churn up nutrients in the water and make hunting for food easier for the sharks. This draws the fish, which can migrate up to 300 miles, to the coastal regions experiencing these tropical winds. Some sharks, such as nurse sharks, might provide an early warning that a strong storm is in the making, as they tend to run when a system’s internal pressure is dropping.

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The scientists realized that fish could provide accurate ocean temperatures, which could be fed into the computer models that forecasters use to develop tropical predictions. They tagged several migrating fish (mostly sharks) and tracked their progress in comparison to tropical storm data.

“The beauty of this is the fish can give a gazillion pieces of information, and that represents a really exciting opportunity,” said Nick Shay, a professor of meteorology and oceanography at Rosenstiel.

So, while sharks might be great weather predictors, stay safe in the waters during hurricane season.

For WeatherNation: Ashleigh Costanza

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