Hurricane Ian, which initially made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 storm, left scars not only on the land but also in the water.
Such human-induced pollutants and nutrients coming off the land can also spur harmful algal blooms that are dangerous for animals and people, said marine and environmental scientist Hans Paerl. Harmful algal blooms, also known as red tides, are especially prevalent off the western coast of Florida and can affect fisheries key to the state’s economy.
“The story’s not over when the storm leaves. In fact, it’s sort of just beginning from an environmental perspective,” said Paerl, professor at the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “With all that runoff, we’re getting a lot of nutrients that are coming off the land, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, which can increase harmful algal blooms.”