Record heat over Great Barrier Reef raises fears of second summer of coral bleaching

2 days ago 11

Ocean temperatures implicit parts of the Great Barrier Reef person reached grounds levels this month, sparking fears of a 2nd summertime successful a enactment of wide coral bleaching.

Data from the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) shows oversea aboveground temperatures implicit the bluish parts of the reef person been the highest for immoderate November connected a grounds going backmost to 1985.

With the highest play for accumulated vigor implicit the reef not expected until February, cooler upwind conditions and cyclone enactment earlier past could stave disconnected a wide bleaching event.

Prof Terry Hughes, a starring adept connected coral bleaching astatine James Cook University, said helium had ne'er seen vigor accent accumulating connected the reef this early, but a “well timed cyclone” successful December could trim the hazard of bleaching.

“It is surely the lawsuit that somesthesia records are tumbling. The informing signs are clear,” helium said.

Last summer’s wide bleaching, declared by the Great BarrierReef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), was the archetypal outbreak during a La Niña – a clime signifier that historically has kept water temperatures chill capable to debar bleaching.

Hughes said: “According to Noaa’s predictions there’s a bully accidental we volition spot different back-to-back bleaching event. That was not expected to beryllium happening until the mediate of this century.”

Rising water temperatures driven by quality emissions of greenhouse gases mostly from burning fossil fuels caused six wide bleaching events on the reef successful 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017, 2020 and 2022.

The bleaching of past summertime that affected 91% of each idiosyncratic reefs came aft grounds water temperatures implicit the reef successful December.

But according to Noaa data, determination is presently much accumulated vigor implicit the reef successful the northbound than astatine the aforesaid clip past year.

A existent Noaa forecast suggests by precocious January ample parts of the bluish reef volition apt spot important bleaching and, successful the weeks that follow, immoderate areas could spot capable vigor to origin coral death.

Bureau of Meteorology forecasts for oversea aboveground temperatures also amusement vigor accumulating successful December and January implicit the reef.

Observations show existent temperatures successful the cardinal and bluish parts of the reef astatine astir 2C supra average.

Corals tin retrieve from bleaching if temperatures are not severe. Scientists person seen a emergence successful the magnitude of coral implicit the reef successful caller years – a betterment driven by fast-growing corals that experts accidental are besides the astir susceptible to bleaching.

GBRMPA’s main scientist, Dr David Wachenfeld, said the authorization was examining predictions from Noaa and the bureau “to recognize what mightiness hap implicit this summer”.

He said the conditions starring successful to this summertime were a concern, but said “local upwind conditions volition powerfully power oversea aboveground temperatures passim the summertime – for example, if determination is rainfall oregon cloudy conditions. Temperatures besides thin to beryllium hottest successful February.

“Right now, it is excessively aboriginal to accidental what this summertime volition mean for the reef, though the existent La Niña lawsuit is expected to summation rainfall on the eastbound and north-eastern coast.”

He said the authorization would beryllium utilizing satellite, aerial and in-water observations to show conditions and marque forecasts.

Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a pioneering coral bleaching idiosyncratic astatine the University of Queensland, said: “This is astir the dependable but accelerated emergence successful water temperatures and this is precise worrying. This [heat stress] is happening galore weeks earlier than accustomed – successful the past it has been successful January. I person had to cheque my watch.

“The information it’s astir apt the warmest November connected grounds [over the reef] and fixed what we cognize astir vigor accent connected corals, this does not bode well.”