Conducting a research expedition in the Bahamas during hurricane season (June 1 – November 30) can be a risky venture. One never knows where or when a tropical storm (which is a low pressure system) will develop. Depending on the size and intensity of the storm, sometimes it’s simply a matter of moving your expedition out of the way of the expected path. Sometimes you have to steam for safe harbor and fly your researchers out of harm’s way, which was the case for the end of the Inaguas and Hogsty leg of the Bahamas Expedition (click here to read the blog “Irene and Emily: A Tale of Two Storms”).
However, when a high pressure systems develops over a coral reef researcher’s expedition area, no one thinks of calling it off. High pressure systems are areas of fair weather and blue skies. Unfortunately, an area with extremely high pressure may bring some pretty intense winds. Yesterday, a cold front began passing through the Bahamas. Behind the front is an area of very high pressure. The winds we experienced before the front were very calm and the sea state (wave height) was nearly flat calm. Since the cold front, the winds have increased to more than 20 knots (22 m.p.h.) and the sea state is around 2 m (6.5 feet). Over the next week the winds are expected to increase and become sustained at 30 knots (33 m.p.h). By the way, tropical storm force winds begin at 34 knots. This will increase the seas to 3 m (10 feet) or more.