Unprecedented coral bleaching to continue worldwide

Hotter-than-normal ocean temperatures are set to continue for a third year in a row, putting coral reefs around the world are at risk of further bleaching, according to a new outlook from US authorities.

The NOAA Coral Reef Watch found that the bleaching event will hit the US particularly hard, predicting damage in Hawaii, the Florida Keys, and the US Virgin Islands among other places. Even deeper reefs 160 kilometres off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico could be affected.

After the 2015/2016 strong El Niño, which wreaked weather-related havoc around the globe, the NOAA now predicts there is a 75 per cent change of a La Nina development this year, according to a statement. La Nina can cause high ocean temperatures in the western Pacific, leading to a 90 per cent change of coral bleaching in the Pacific island nations of Palau and Micronesia.

“It’s time to shift this conversation to what can be done to conserve these amazing organisms in the face of this unprecedented global bleaching event,” said Jennifer Koss, NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program director.

While NOAA is working with coastal resource managers and communities in coral reef areas to enhance reef resilience, Koss warns this isn’t enough. “Globally, we need to better understand what actions we all can take to combat the effects of climate change.”

This third global coral bleaching event began in mid-2014 and is now set to continue for an unprecedented third year, making this the longest and most widespread coral bleaching event on record, states NOAA.

Corals around the world have been affected: 70 per cent of US coral reefs have been exposed to prolonged high temperatures, while around 93 per cent of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was bleached as of this April.


Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey

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