Quantcast
Climate

NOAA: World's Worst Coral Bleaching Event to Continue 'With No Signs of Stopping'

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts 2016 will be another year with significant coral bleaching; and scientists see no end in site.

A diver checking out the bleaching at Heron Island in February 2016. This area was one of the first to bleach at Heron Island which is located close to the southern most point of the Great Barrier Reef. Photo credit: XL Catlin Seaview Survey

NOAA expects the bleaching event to hit the U.S. hard, especially in Hawaii, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Florida Keys, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, according to a June 20 news release. The administration's Coral Reef Watch believes there's a 90 percent chance of widespread bleaching in the Pacific island nations of Palau and the Federal States of Micronesia.

The Pacific islands's corals are likely to suffer from La Nina. NOAA predicts there's a 75 percent chance La Nina will develop this year, bringing above normal water temperatures to the western Pacific.

NOAA said 2016 marks the third consecutive year with ocean water temperatures hotter than normal. This episode of coral bleaching began in mid-2014, making it "the longest and most widespread coral bleaching event on record."

During this period, the administration reported, 70 percent of U.S. coral reefs have been exposed to prolonged high temperatures that can cause bleaching. Ninety-three percent of Australia's Great Barrier Reef was bleached as of this April. Coral bleaching in the world's largest reef system could cause it to be a "dead ecosystem" in 20 years, EcoWatch reported previously.

The largest coral atoll in the world, Kiritimati, has lost 80 percent of its coral in the past 10 months due to this coral bleaching event. Last month, Thailand announced it was closing 10 popular dive sites due to coral bleaching.

"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," Jennifer Koss, NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program director, said. “We have boots on the ground and fins in the water to reduce local stressors. Local conservation buys us time, but it isn't enough. Globally, we need to better understand what actions we all can take to combat the effects of climate change."

NOAA is working with coastal resource managers and communities near coral reefs to provide the best science and tools to enhance reef resilience. Scientists are also working on developing methods to assess the potential resilience of reefs so management officials can target and prioritize local conservation actions.

“NOAA's satellite and climate models provide us with the ability to track the high temperatures that are causing this bleaching and alert resource managers and scientists around the world," C. Mark Eakin, NOAA's Coral Reef Watch coordinator, said. “However, it is crucial that scientists and the public continue on site monitoring of reefs to track the actual extent and severity of the bleaching."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

10 Popular Dive Sites Closed in Thailand Due to Coral Bleaching Crisis

World's Oceans Face Worst Coral Die-Off in History, Scientists Warn

Scientists Confirm: 93% of Great Barrier Reef Now Bleached

Massive Coral Reef Discovered at Mouth of Amazon, But It's Already Threatened by Oil Drilling

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Energy
Petrified Forest National Park. Andrew Kearns / National Park Service

Trump Opens Door to Dangerous Fracking in Northern Arizona

A new Trump administration plan proposes to auction off 4,200 acres of public land for oil and gas development in northern Arizona. The lands straddle the Little Colorado River, are within three miles of Petrified Forest National Park, and are near habitat for a federally threatened fish called the Little Colorado spinedace. Drilling and fracking would threaten to deplete and pollute groundwater in the Little Colorado River Basin.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Wild bumble bees provide natural pollination for blueberries in North America. John Flannery / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Beyond Honey Bees: Wild Bees Are Also Key Pollinators, and Some Species Are Disappearing

By Kelsey K. Graham

Declines in bee populations around the world have been widely reported over the past several decades. Much attention has focused on honey bees, which commercial beekeepers transport all over the U.S. to pollinate crops.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Brown bears in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. NPS Photo / B. Plog

Trump Admin. Wants to Reinstate 'Cruel' Hunting Tactics in Alaska, Conservation Groups Say

The Trump administration has proposed new regulations to overturn an Obama-era rule that protects iconic predators in Alaska's national preserves.

Wildlife protection organizations condemned the move, as it would allow hunters to go to den sites to shoot wolf pups and bear cubs, lure and kill bears over bait, hunt bears with dogs and use motor boats to shoot swimming caribou. Such hunting methods were banned on federal lands in 2015 that are otherwise permitted by the state.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
An Asian elephant eating tree bark. Yathin S Krishnappa / CC BY-SA 3.0

5 Conservation Milestones to Celebrate on This International Day for Biological Diversity

Scientists are increasingly realizing the importance of biodiversity for sustaining life on earth. The most comprehensive biodiversity study in a decade, published in March by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), warned that the ongoing loss of species and habitats was as great a threat to our and our planet's wellbeing as climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Deep-sea corals may not be flashy, but they deserve a second look. Oceana

Ignoring Deep-Sea Corals Is Risky for the Oceans, and for Us

By Nathan Johnson

The deep sea might be cold and dark, but it's not barren. Down here, an incredible diversity of corals shelters young fish like grouper, snapper and rockfish. Sharks, rays and other species live and feed here their whole lives.

Brightly colored coral gardens, far beyond the reach of the sun's rays, don't just nurture deep-sea life. They also help advance medical research and understand climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Kristian Buus / Greenpeace

Green Groups Balk at England’s Plan to Fast Track Fracking

Government ministers published proposals Thursday that would speed the development of fracking in England, igniting opposition from environmental groups and local communities, The Independent reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy

Before Royal Wedding Sermon, Rev. Curry Stood With Standing Rock Pipeline Opponents

Bishop Michael Curry, who delivered a passionate wedding sermon to royal newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday, also gave a powerful message about two years ago to Dakota Access Pipeline protesters at Standing Rock, North Dakota.

On Sept. 24, 2016 at the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the reverend offered the Episcopal Church's solidarity with the water protectors, noting that, "Water is a gift of the Creator. We must protect it. We must conserve it. We must care for it."

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Coral bleaching like this (in the Great Barrier Reef) is killing the largest reef in Japan. Oregon State University / CC BY-SA 2.0

Only 1% of Japan’s Largest Reef Still Healthy After Historic Bleaching Catastrophe

In a sobering reminder of the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity, a survey by the Japanese government found that barely more than one percent of the coral in the country's largest coral reef is healthy, AFP reported Friday.

The reef, located in the Sekisei Lagoon near Okinawa, has suffered mass coral bleaching events due to rising sea temperatures in 1998, 2001, 2007 and 2016.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!