Monday, November 28, 2011

Weather in the Maldives

The Indian Ocean acts as a heat buffer, absorbing, storing, and slowly releasing the tropical heat. The temperature of Maldives ranges between 24 °C (75 °F) and 33 °C (91 °F) throughout the year. Although the humidity is relatively high, the constant cool sea breezes keep the air moving and the heat mitigated.

The weather in the Maldives is affected by the large landmass of South Asia to the north. The presence of this landmass causes differential heating of land and water. These factors set off a rush of moisture-rich air from the Indian Ocean over South Asia, resulting in the southwest monsoon. Two seasons dominate Maldives' weather: the dry season associated with the winter northeastern monsoon and the rainy season which brings strong winds and storms. The shift from the moist southwest monsoon to the dry northeast monsoon occurs during April and May. During this period, the northeast winds contribute to the formation of the northeast monsoon, which reaches Maldives in the beginning of June and lasts until the end of August. However, the weather patterns of Maldives do not always conform to the monsoon patterns of South Asia. The annual rainfall averages 254 centimeters (100 in) in the north and 381 centimeters (150 in) in the south.

Marine ecosystem
Maldives waters are home to several ecosystems, but are most noted for their variety of colorful coral reefs, home to 300 species of fish. Seven marine species have been described as new to science, while several more await description. Over 400 have been identified and catalogued and many are now held in the reference collection, including 5 species of sea turtles, 51 species of echinoderms, 5 species of sea grasses and 285 species of alga & sponges, crustaceans, and tunicates. About 200 coral species have been recorded to date, representing over 60 genera.

Among the many marine families represented are Pufferfish, Fusiliers, Jackfish, Lionfish, Oriental Sweetlips, reef sharks, Groupers, Eels and Snappers. Bannerfish, Batfish, Humphead Wrasse, Spotted Eagle Rays, Scorpionfish, Lobsters, Nudibranches, Angelfish, Butterflyfish, Squirrelfish, Soldierfish, Glassfish, Surgeonfish, Unicornfish, Triggerfish, Napoleon wrasses and Barracudas.

These coral reefs are home to a variety of marine ecosystems that vary from planktonic organisms to whale sharks. Sponges have gained importance as five species have displayed anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties.

1998 El Niño
In 1998, warming due to the El Niño phenomenon killed 2/3 of the nation's coral reefs due to bleaching. Coral reef bleaching is a "term suggested in place of "coral bleaching" because this condition is seldom limited to corals and most affected photo symbiotic hosts reside on coral reefs". Bleaching is the loss of photo symbiotic microorganisms (dinoflagellates, red and green algae, or cyanobacteria), or the pigments of these photosymbionts, or some of both, from tissues of host cnidarians, sponges, molluscs or other photosymbiotic host animals. The name comes from the whitening of many hosts which possess few pigments of their own.

The water temperature had been raised as much as 5 °C (41 °F) degrees. Several scientists placed electrified cones anywhere from 20–60 feet (6.1–18 m) below the surface. The cones created an attraction for coral larva to attach itself. In 2004, scientists witnessed corals regenerating. Corals began to eject pink-orange eggs and sperm. The growth of these electrified corals was five times faster than ordinary corals. Scientist Azeez Hakim stated, "before 1998, we never thought that this reef would die. We had always taken for granted that these animals would be there, that this reef would be there forever. El Niño gave us a wake-up call that these things are not going to be there forever. They help by removing and recycling the carbon-dioxide which in excess amounts can lead to global warming. Not only this, they also act as a natural barrier against the tropical storms, floods and tsunamis”. Seaweeds grow on the skeletons of dead coral. The corals reefs are like the rainforest for marine life.

2004 Tsunami
On 26 December 2004, following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the Maldives were devastated by a tsunami. Only nine islands were reported to have escaped any flooding, while fifty-seven islands faced serious damage to critical infrastructure, fourteen islands had to be totally evacuated, and six islands were destroyed. A further twenty-one resort islands were forced to close because of serious damage. The total damage was estimated at more than US$400 million, or some 62 percent of the GDP. A total of 108 people, including six foreigners, reportedly died in the tsunami. The destructive impact of the waves on the low-lying islands was mitigated by the fact there was no continental shelf or land mass upon which the waves could gain height. The tallest waves were reported to be 14 feet (4.3 m) high.

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