The slice of ocean squeezed in between Florida and the Bahamas is a person of the most perfectly-examined marine environments in the world, and however it truly is also the epicenter of a lasting geological mystery.
Because at the very least the 1930s, experts in the area have found bizarre, billowing white clouds showing in the turquoise tranquility of the water’s floor.
The curious phenomenon is named a ‘whiting event’, and experts nevertheless will not have an understanding of why it occurs in the Bahamas.
It has develop into a kind of ‘white whale’ for researchers at the close by College of South Florida (USF).
The perplexing patches of light-weight-colored ocean are sometimes recognized in other oceans and lakes globally, but in the Bahamas, they pop up additional often than regular.
Immediate sampling of the cloudy waters indicates they consist of higher concentrations of carbonate-rich particles.
Much of the Bahama archipelago sits on a submerged platform of carbonate regarded as the Bahama Financial institutions. Does this suggest sediments are climbing to the surface? Or could it be that blooms of phytoplankton are essentially creating the suspended materials?
No 1 is aware of the solutions to those people questions, but scientists at USF are determined to come across out. They have used satellite photos from NASA to present how whiting gatherings ebb and move in the Bahamas.
The crew would not know if the tendencies they’ve identified are natural or human-triggered, but what they do know is that from 2003 to 2020, the dimension of these whiting activities seemed to correlate with the seasons.
The major patches happened from March to May and Oct to December. On average, the white patches have been about 2.4 square kilometers a piece. On a day with crystal clear skies, satellite visuals normally snapped about 24 of them, covering a total space of 32 sq. kilometers (12 square miles).
Among 2011 and 2015, however, the patches suddenly swelled in size, masking a lot more than 200 sq. kilometers of the ocean at their peak (77 sq. miles). By 2019, having said that, the patches shrunk once more, despite the fact that they never obtained rather as small as they experienced formerly been.
The results advise a 10-calendar year cycle may possibly be at enjoy. But a cycle of what precisely?
“I would like I could tell you why we noticed that peak in exercise, but we are not there nonetheless,” suggests USF oceanographer Chuanmin Hu.
“We do see some appealing relationships involving environmental conditions, this sort of as the pH, the salinity of water, and the actions of winds and currents, but we won’t be able to but say what correct mechanical, biological, or chemical procedures were being responsible for that peak in exercise.”
More direct area experiments are essential, and not just in the Bahamas. Evaluating whiting situations in other locations could enable scientists determine out what characteristics they share in common.
USF scientists tested their product on whiting gatherings in the Excellent Lakes with preliminary results, but now need to have to back up all those styles on the floor, or alternatively, in the drinking water.
August 2 Satellite see of the Pyramid Lake Whiting celebration in its early levels pic.twitter.com/SoPltG1lG3
— Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (@plpt) August 10, 2020
Some scientific studies, for occasion, have revealed that whiting situations happen much more in areas with muddy sediments.
In addition, it could be that some ocean situations favor the suspension of sediments and calcium carbonate in the water column. As pointed out just before, current satellite data implies white patches in the Bahamas are additional widespread in spring and winter season, and this is when the Florida currents that run north to south swap.
With out far more proof, all of these theories will keep on being just that.
The study was printed in Distant Sensing of Environment.