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In the path of the Hurricane: impact of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee on watershed hydrology and biogeochemistry from North Carolina to Maine, USA

Vidon, Philippe, Karwan, Diana L., Andres, A. Scott, Inamdar, Shreeram, Kaushal, Sujay, Morrison, Jonathan, Mullaney, John, Ross, Donald S., Schroth, Andrew W., Shanley, James B., Yoon, Byungman
Biogeochemistry 2018 v.141 no.3 pp. 351-364
biogeochemistry, climate models, hurricanes, lakes, metabolism, sediment transport, sediments, solutes, stream flow, streams, water quality, watershed hydrology, Maine, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont
Although many climate predictions suggest that the frequency and intensity of large storm events might increase in the coming decades, few studies document the full impact of such events along their path. Here, we synthesize information on the impact of Hurricane Irene (formed August 21 2011) and Tropical Storm Lee (formed August 30, 2011) on erosion and sediment transport, lake metabolism, riparian hydrology and biogeochemistry, and stream water quality, from North Carolina to Maine. In almost all cases, these storms generated unprecedented changes in water quality (concentrations, loads), from tenfold increases in DOC and 100-fold increases in POC in Maryland, to 100-fold increases in TSS concentrations in Pennsylvania. Overbank flooding and up to 200-year streamflow events were recorded in New York and Vermont. In many cases, particulate loads (e.g. POC, PP, TSS) occurring during Irene and Lee represented more than 30% of the annual load. The dominance of particulate exports over solutes during Irene and Lee is consistent with the mobilization of normally immobile sediment pools, and massive erosion as reported at many locations across the Northeastern US. Several studies reported long lasting (> 1 year) effects of Irene and Lee on cyanobacterial blooms, erosion, or stream suspended sediment concentrations. However, this review also highlighted the lack of a consistent strategy in terms of methods, and measured water quality parameters. This strongly hinders our ability to fully assess the large-scale impact of such events on our environment, and ultimately their impact on our economy and society.