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NOAA's Coral Reef Watch and Partners Announce 3rd Global Bleaching Event

October 9, 2015 - As record ocean temperatures cause widespread coral bleaching across Hawaii, NOAA scientists confirm similar warm ocean waters are now causing bleaching across much of the northern Caribbean and may expand, prompting the declaration of the third global coral bleaching event on record. "The coral bleaching and disease, brought on by climate change and coupled with events like the current El Niño, are the largest and most pervasive threats to coral reefs around the world," said Mark Eakin, NOAA's Coral Reef Watch coordinator. "As a result, we are losing huge areas of coral across the U.S., as well as internationally. What really has us concerned is this event has been going on for more than a year and our long-range model projections indicate the bleaching is likely to last well into 2016, when it may be even worse."

This announcement stems from the latest NOAA Coral Reef Watch satellite coral bleaching monitoring products, and was confirmed through reports from partner organizations with divers working on affected reefs, especially the XL Catlin Seaview Survey and ReefCheck. NOAA Coral Reef Watch’s bleaching outlook, which forecasts the potential for coral bleaching worldwide several months in the future, predicted this global event in July 2015.


Coral Reef Watch - Bleaching Projections

NOAA Coral Reef Watch - 6 Oct 2015<br>- 60% Probability Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress for Oct-Jan 2016

NOAA Coral Reef Watch - 6 Oct 2015
- 60% Probability Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress for Oct-Jan 2016
(click to enlarge)



NOAA Coral Reef Watch - 6 Oct 2015<br>- 60% Probability Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress for Feb-May 2016

NOAA Coral Reef Watch - 6 Oct 2015
- 60% Probability Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress for Feb-May 2016
(click to enlarge)


Satellite data from NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch program provides current reef environmental conditions to quickly identify areas at risk for coral bleaching, while its climate model-based outlooks provide managers with information on potential bleaching months in advance.

The outlooks were developed jointly by NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction through funding from the Coral Reef Conservation Program and the Climate Program Office.

What is coral bleaching?

Coral Bleaching factsheet, NOAA/NOSWarmer water temperatures can result in coral bleaching. When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white. This is called coral bleaching. When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality.

Why are coral reefs important?

Coral reefs comprise less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the ocean’s total area. But they’re vitally important both to ecosystems and to people who depend on them.

  • One in every four species of fish live on a coral reef;
  • There are over a million species that live on coral reefs;
  • Coral reefs provide food and livelihood to 500 million people worldwide;

Thanks to Mark Eakin, Coral Reef Watch, the Washington Post, Keeley Belva at NOAA Public Affairs, National Ocean Service, and XL Caitlin Seaview Survey for contributions to this story.

 


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