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Sundried Tide: Silent, Natural Disaster

Photo: An extreme low tide at Orpheus Island. (Credit: Image courtesy of James Cook University / ARC Centre of Excellence)

July 06, 2007
Australian researchers have studied and documented the effect of the RARE "sundried tide", a force of nature that can silently wipe out coral reefs. Extreme low tides on clear sunny days can lead to widespread damage of coastal coral colonies. "Really low tides, where the local sea level gets to its extreme low for the year, can occur at different times of the day. In years where this occurs during the middle of the day when the sunlight is at its most intense and the reefs are almost fully exposed, there is a real risk of severe coral stress and death in the shallow reef zone." Just like cyclones and other natural disasters, these severe ‘sun-dry tides' rarely occur since they rely on the alignment of numerous natural extremes. However, when these factors all align, by a combination of sun, moon and chance weather, an extreme event occurs which could leave coral colonies bleached and devastated. One such event occurred in September 2005 and was the worst in the eight-year record. "These events are highly predictable. We can go into the weather reports, align them with tidal charts and predict the times of greatest risk. The high-risk time of year is July–October, when corals are building up resources for spawning and preparing for summer stressors such as thermal bleaching."

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