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TAMUCC researchers look for links between Saharan Dust, Red Tide

Posted at 4:29 PM, Jul 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-23 10:06:01-04

Saharan Dust and Red Tide; two things the Coastal Bend could do without.

Texas A&M Corpus Christi marine biologist Dr. Michael Wetz believes the two go hand in hand.

“There is a pretty solid link between Red Tide and dust,” said Wetz.  “In the eastern Gulf of Mexico, they’ve pretty well shown that linkage between the dust and Red Tide.”

But does more dust mean more Red Tide like Corpus Christi had in 2016?

“If you get a much dustier year, are you going to get bigger Red Tides or not?  We don’t really know that for sure because there hasn’t been a lot of monitoring,” said Wetz.

That’s where doctoral student Sarah Tominack comes in.  She studies red tide’s effects on local waterways.  According to Tominack, Saharan Dust contains nutrients like iron, which Red Tide algae thrive on.

“As it is blown over the Atlantic Ocean and deposited into the Gulf of Mexico, it’s something that can stimulate or aid in the formation of Red Tides,” said Tominack.

Tominack’s research shows that since the 90’s, there have been more years with Red Tide than without.  Dr. Wetz says that wasn’t the case 40, 50 years ago.

Wetz and Tominack say predicting Red Tides is hit or miss, but hope their research takes out some of the guesswork.

“It is something that can help us predict when these harmful Red Tides could occur,” said Tominack.