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Evaluation of differences in sea surface temperatures between 1987 and 1988 for use in study of sea turtle strandings along the southeast U.S. coast
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  • Description:
    During the period from October through December 1988, numerous sea turtles were observed stranded dead along the beaches of southern Georgia and northeastern Florida. Among the stranded animals were 78 Kemp's ridley turtles, the most critically depleted of all sea turtles (Thompson 1988). While it is not unusual for large numbers of turtles to strand at this time of year, it is unusual for large numbers of Kemp's ridley turtles to strand in this area, or any area. The Southeast Fisheries Center (SEFC) initiated an investigation into the possible causes of the strandings. As part of this investigation the Marine Climatology Investigation (MCI) of the Northeast Fisheries Center (NEFC) was asked to evaluate sea surface temperatures (SST) along the eastern coastline to determine if SST variations might have influenced migration patterns. Since no similar event occurred in 1987, the 1987 data were used as a baseline for evaluating SST in 1988. Satellite data from NOAA-9 and NOAA-ll were used to calculate SST differences for the two years. The results show no significant trend or specific thermal event which directly affected the turtle strandings. Several minor features are noted, however, these do not appear to be related to the strandings. Data from NOAA weather buoys confirm these findings. Further study would be valuable to determine the variability of SST in relation to turtle migration patterns.
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