3A.7 Monitoring Drought along the Gulf of Mexico and the Southeastern Atlantic Ocean Using the Coastal Salinity Index

Monday, 8 January 2018: 3:30 PM
Room 18A (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Paul Conrads, USGS, Columbia, SC; and L. Rouen, K. Lackstrom, and B. McCloskey

Coastal droughts have a different dynamic than upland droughts, which are typically characterized by agricultural, hydrologic, meteorological, and (or) socio-economic impacts. Drought uniquely affects coastal ecosystems due to changes in salinity conditions of estuarine creeks and rivers. The location of the freshwater-saltwater interface in surface-water bodies is an important factor in the ecological and socio-economic dynamics of coastal communities. The location of the interface determines the freshwater and saltwater aquatic communities, fisheries spawning habitat, and the freshwater availability for municipal and industrial water intakes. The severity of coastal drought may explain changes in Vibrio bacteria impacts on shellfish harvesting and occurrence of wound infection, fish kills, harmful algal blooms, hypoxia, and beach closures. To address the data and information gap for characterizing coastal drought, a coastal salinity index (CSI) was developed using salinity data. The CSI uses a computational approach similar to the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI). The CSI is computed for unique time intervals (for example 1-, 6-, 12-, and 24-month) that can characterize the onset and recovery of short- and long-term drought. Evaluation of the CSI indicates that the index can be used for different estuary types (for example: brackish, oligohaline, or mesohaline), for regional comparison between estuaries, and as an index of wet conditions (high freshwater inflow) in addition to drought (saline) conditions. The following three activities being completed in 2017 that enhance the use and application of the CSI will be presented:

1) A software package was developed for the consistent computation of the CSI that includes preprocessing of salinity data, filling missing data, computing the CSI, post-processing, and generating the supporting metadata.

2) The CSI has been computed at sites along the Gulf of Mexico (Texas to Florida) and the Southeastern Atlantic Ocean (Florida to North Carolina); and

3) Using telemetered salinity data, the real-time computation of the CSI has been prototyped and disseminated on the web.

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner