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CR 16:37-50 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/cr016037

Field assessment of the microclimatology of tropical flank margin caves

Douglas W. Gamble*, Joseph T. Dogwiler, John Mylroie

Department of Geosciences, Mississippi State University, PO Drawer 5448, Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762, USA
*Present address: Department of Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, 601 S College St, Wilmington, North Carolina 28405, USA. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Temperature observations were collected inside 2 caves in the Bahamas and 1 cave in Puerto Rico to characterize the microclimatology of tropical flank margin cave systems. Three aspects of these tropical cave temperatures agree with temperate cave microclimate theory. Specifically, external atmospheric disturbances can affect temperatures inside tropical flank margin cave systems, tropical flank margin caves are warmer than the exterior temperatures during winter, and water can impact temperatures deep into a tropical flank margin cave system. The temperature observations collected also indicate potential differences between the microclimatology of tropical and temperate cave systems. In particular, the temperate 3-zone cave microclimate model may not be applicable to tropical flank margin caves, diurnal fluctuations were not apparent in tropical flank margin cave systems, and the existence of a temperature inversion in a down-sloping cave may not be applicable to all tropical flank margin caves. The potential differences in temperate and these tropical cave systems can be linked to the physical dimensions of the tropical flank margin cave systems and the unique hydrology of small carbonate islands. Specifically, tropical flank margin caves have a width greater than length while temperate fluvio-karst caves have a length greater than width and tidal water can exist in the pits and depressions of tropical flank margin caves as opposed to flowing streams in temperate cave systems.

KEY WORDS: Microclimatology · Tropical caves · Bahamas · Puerto Rico · Cave climate

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