Meteorology and hydrography of a shoaling reef flat on the Caribbean coast of Panama

  • Cubit J
  • Caffey H
  • Thompson R
 et al. 
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We describe the seasonal patterns and frequency distributions of meteorological and hydrographic conditions on a windward, shoaling reef flat of Punta Galeta, Panama (9 degree 24'N lat.), between 1974 and 198%. The factors monitored were wind speed, wind direction, air temperature, rainfall, solar radiation, water level, water temperature, and salinity. All conditions showed strong seasonal periodicity; however, the timing, duration, and amplitude of the seasonal fluctuations differed among years. The greatest variation occurred in 1981 and 1982, leading into an El Nino event. Emergence of the reef flat and extremes of water temperature were the most apparent physiological stresses; both were dependent on mean water levels. The seasonal pattern of emergence time was inversely related to mean water level. Extreme water temperatures only occurred during low water levels, ranging between 22 degree to gt 37 degree C in depths lt 15 cm, but staying between 25 degree C and 30.9 degree C in depths gt 35 cm. Water temperatures averaged 1.5 degree C higher than air temperatures. Although rainfall was 200 to 400 cm year-1, salinity remained bewteen 24 and 36 ppt, with more than 98% of the records qtoreq 30 ppt. The relationship of water temperature to depth is consistent with the hypothesis that the physical environment becomes more stressful when a reef reaches sea level and forms a shoaling platform.

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  • John D. Cubit

  • Hugh M. Caffey

  • Ricardo C. Thompson

  • Donald M. Windsor

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