The Secret to Shark Sightings Might Just Be Blowing in the Wind - NBC Southern California
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The Secret to Shark Sightings Might Just Be Blowing in the Wind

Shark researchers have already tagged a record number of sharks in Cape Cod this summer

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Is Forecasting Shark Sightings as Simple as Reading the Wind?

    A meteorologist with an endless fascination with the water has developed a system for predicting when sharks are most likely to be seen. (Published Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019)

    A forecast of "partly cloudy with a chance of sharks" might actually one day be useful for beachgoers, if a meteorologist's theory connecting shark sightings with wind speed holds true.

    So far, the data supports a connection between the two, according to Massachusetts meteorologist Joe Merchant, who now lives in Texas and has an endless fascination with sharks.

    He'd noticed in 2015 that North Carolina had two shark attacks that took place within an hour and there was a sea breeze blowing at the time. Since then, he developed a wind-based system he says can predict when sharks are most likely to be seen near beaches.

    "The working hypothesis is that the the sea breeze itself is actually drawing cooler, nutrient-rich water from below up to the surface," he said.

    Those nutrients draw fish, which draw seals, which attract sharks, according to the theory.

    Merchant reached out to Greg Skomal, a Massachusetts marine biologist who studies sharks, and they cross-referenced last year's local shark attacks. They found similar conditions.

    Merchant would like to see other weather observation sites along the seashore to help him better model sea breeze activity.

    "Right now, I'm somewhat limited in my analysis," he said. "We really need a lot more equipment down there."

    The development would likely be welcome on Cape Cod, where shark researchers have already tagged a record number of sharks thus far into summer.