Coral Bleaching rising While corals can recover from mild bleaching, severe or long-term bleaching kills corals. Even if corals recover, they are more susceptible to disease. Once corals die, it usually takes decades for the reef to recover — but recovery is only possible if the reefs are undisturbed. After corals die, reefs degrade and the structures corals build are eroded away, providing less shoreline protection and less habitat for fish and shellfish.
“The bleaching that started in June 2014 has been really bad for corals in the western Pacific,” said Mark Eakin, NOAA Coral Reef Watch
Earlier this year, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch four-month Coral Bleaching Outlook
In fall 2014, Hawaii saw widespread coral bleaching for the first time since 1996. If corals in Hawaii bleach again this year, it would be the first time it happened in consecutive years in the archipelago.
Warmer ocean temperatures in 2014 also dealt a blow to coral nurseries in the Florida Keys, where scientists are growing threatened coral species to transplant onto local reefs. Coral reefs in Florida and the Caribbean have weathered repeated and worsening coral bleaching events for the past thirty years. The NOAA Coral Reef Watch monitoring team says that more bleaching so soon could spell disaster for corals that have yet to recover from last year’s stress.
“Many healthy, resilient coral reefs can withstand bleaching as long as they have time to recover,” Eakin said. “However, when you have repeated bleaching on a reef within a short period of time, it’s very hard for the corals to recover and survive. This is even worse where corals are suffering from other environmental threats, like pollution or overfishing.”
NOAA’s bleaching prediction for the upcoming months supports the findings of a paper
“The paper reports that even if humans limit the Earth’s warming to two degrees C (3.8 degrees F), many marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, are still going to suffer,” said Eakin, an author on the paper. “The increase we are seeing in the frequency and severity of bleaching events is part of why the climate models in that paper predict a dire future for coral reefs.”
The NOAA Coral Reef Watch program’s satellite data provide current reef environmental conditions to quickly identify areas at risk for coral bleaching
The four-month Coral Bleaching Outlooks
For more information on coral bleaching and these products, visit: http://www.coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/index.php
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C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D.
Coordinator, NOAA Coral Reef Watch
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Center for Satellite Applications and Research
Satellite Oceanography & Climate Division
NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (NCWCP)
5830 University Research Ct., E/RA32
College Park, MD 20740
Office: (301) 683-3320 Fax: (301) 683-3301
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“We have many advantages in the fight against global warming, but time is not one of them. Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming, or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring. We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great. The most relevant question now is whether our own government is equal to the challenge.”
Senator John McCain, December 5 2008