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I am curious if anybody else diving Caribbean waters is seeing the same thing I am with the ocean temperatures.
I go diving almost every day off Little Cayman, and the deep water ocean temperature here is still 81F. Last year I was out daily and recorded the temperature on every dive. By late December, I was recording 79F, and by late January it was down to 78F. It was early February before we got to 77F, and that only lasted 3 weeks. This year, though, we're still stuck at 81F. We're now past the January full moon, and there is no evidence of a Nassau Grouper aggregation as normally happens in January. According to the Humman & DeLoach "Fish Behavior" book, what triggers the aggregation is water temperature dropping to 79 or less, then a full moon. Up north in Turks & Caicos and in the Bahamas, this normally happens in December. Here in CI, it's normally January. But this year, the water is still too warm.
Another strange phenomenon here this year has been the algae growth. Brown algae overcovered most of the reefs in the late summer and fall, and it was plain ugly. I remember the same algae growth last winter, but it was not nearly as extensive as this year. It was only on the western end of the north wall that this algae was a problem, but this year it extended the whole length of the northern wall. The good news, however, is that it broke up in last weekend's rough water and now seems to be gone. I've covered almost the entire northern wall during the past few days and don't see any of that brown algae left. Curiously, I remember it disappearing last year about this same time. But as I mentioned, it was on only a small portion of the northern wall last year.
Anyway, I'm very curious if other Caribbean divers are observing the same abnormally warm water temperatures this winter?
I spent December 17th thru 24th diving off West Caicos and French Cay. The water was consistently 81F. Algae was not a problem but there was noticeable bleaching of corals, which probably came from unusually warm water temps last summer and fall.
The water temperature off West Caicos last week was 79F. It was my first time there, so I can't compare it to previous Januarys. I also noticed the bleaching effect, although it took me a couple of days to figure out what it was.
Down here in GC I've noticed a nosediving of the water temps over the last month. Dropped from 81 to 78, and I recorded a 75 on a dive at our training site inside the shoal reef on East End. The pool temps are even lower since they can cool off so much more easily. It's cold!
Dunno what's happening up there in LC, but I'm hanging up my shortie and not so sure my 3mm long suit is going to get me through this winter.
Have been getting consistent 81f in Grand Cayman on the North and West walls until the last few days when the temp has dropped down to around 79/80f. The exception has been the Southside of the island where we have experienced noticeable thermoclines down to 77f in some areas. This seems to be related to cooler water from the shallow sounds moving out onto the reefs after cold fronts have passed through. We have another front coming in tonight so I'm sure we're in for another temperature drop!
It is not unknown for the temps to remain this high so late into the winter, I just hope they do drop down at some point or else we could be in for an interesting summer with hurricanes and bleaching.
The full moon was quite early this month and so the Groupers are probably holding off until February, which is again not unknown.
Here's hoping my 5mm suit arrives in time!!
When I was down in Barbados this past December the water temps were still in the mid 80's. The shop operators were telling me that the water was in the 90's through the late summer, the highest they had ever recorded. There was ALOT of coral bleaching going on.
Be afraid, be very afraid.
It was still 81F all along the north wall yesterday. I have heard from some of the tourists that they are seeing cooler water on the south side of the island, but can't verify that. And yes, after cool evenings I sometimes see cooler temperatures in the shallows, where it's only 10' deep. But by the same token, that same water will be 84F by late afternoon on a sunny day. The real key here is the deep water temperature, and I'm recording 2 degrees warmer than the same time last winter.
Re the comments people have made about coral bleaching... There was an interesting article in the Q1 2004 "Underseas Journal" titled "Identifying Western Atlantic Coral Diseases". Several of these diseases could easily be mistaken for bleaching. That article referenced a web page at http://www.unep-wcmc.org/marine/coraldis/home.htm and there is indeed tons of good information on coral diseases there.