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NOAA declares third ever global coral bleaching event

2015-10-11

As record ocean temperatures cause widespread coral bleaching across Hawaii, NOAA scientists confirm the same stressful conditions are expanding to the Caribbean and may last into the new year, prompting the declaration of the third global coral bleaching event ever on record.

via NOAA declares third ever global coral bleaching event.

Corals can recover from mild bleaching, but severe bleaching events are frequently fatal.  Dead coral reefs  degrade and erode away, leaving coastlines with less protection from storms and less habitat for fish and the other marine animals that make a reef a lively place.

The current bleaching events are affecting Hawaii and will spread to the Caribbean, from the US Virgin Islands to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Puerto Rico and as far south as the Leeward and Windward Islands.  The strong El Nino in the Pacific will cause warming and bleaching in the Indian Ocean and the southeastern Pacific Ocean after the beginning of 2016.

Bleaching was monitored from satellite visualization, and confirmed by divers observing local conditions.  NOAA used this data to create a forecast for coral bleaching conditions worldwide.  Global bleaching was first predicted in July 2015.  Current conditions come immediately after serious bleaching and coral death in the Main Hawaiian Islands last year and overwhelming bleaching and death in the remote Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the worst ever seen at Lisianski Atoll.

The first global bleaching occurred in 1998, and the second in 2010.  This widespread bleaching began in 2014 and is expected to continue into 2016.  The first event was associated with a strong El Nino which was coincident with record high world temperature spikes which were not equaled or surpassed until 2010, when another El Nino occurred.

Coral bleaching is associated with high ocean temperatures.  Other than bringing the ocean temperature down to normal, mutations that enhance the coral’s ability to tolerate the heat are the only answer to these devastating events that will exacerbate the effects of global warming.

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