Persistent Hydrological Consequences of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

TitlePersistent Hydrological Consequences of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsMiller, PW, Kumar, A, Mote, TL, Moraes, FDS, Mishra, DR
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Keywordsdefoliation, hurricanes, hydrologic cycle, land-atmosphere interactions
AbstractAbstract In September 2017, Hurricane Maria severely defoliated Puerto Rico's landscape, coinciding with a series of persistent hydrological consequences involving the atmospheric, terrestrial, and marine components of the water cycle. During the defoliated period, the atmosphere's thermodynamic structure more strongly explained daily cloud activity (R2PRE = 0.02; R2POST = 0.40) and precipitation (R2PRE = 0.19; R2POST = 0.33) than before landfall, indicating that post-Maria land-atmosphere interactions were comparatively muted, with similar precipitation patterns also found following Hurricanes Hugo (1989) and Georges (1998). Meanwhile, modeled post-Maria runoff exceeded statistical expectations given the magnitude of contemporaneous precipitation. Enhanced runoff also coincided with greater sediment loads in nearshore waters, increasing sediment content greater than twofold. This study offers a holistic narrative of hydrospheric disturbance and recovery, whereby the instantaneous, large-scale removal of vegetation is accompanied by hydrologic changes “upstream” in the atmosphere and “downstream” in rivers and estuaries.