NOAA reports major coral bleaching in 2014

Hawaii bleaching the worst on record

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Coral reefs experienced major heat stress in 2014. Map courtesy NOAA Climate.gov – Dan Pisut.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even without a surge of El Niño ocean heat, there was widespread coral bleaching across parts of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean this past summer.

Reefs in the Florida Keys saw their worst bleaching episode since 1997-1999, when a major El Niño was followed by strong La Niña conditions, NOAA scientists reported recently. The surprising intensity of bleaching across multiple ocean basins in 2014 has scientists wondering what to expect in 2015, when El Niño is forecasted to finally develop. Continue reading

Will global temps soar when trade winds weaken?

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Will global temps soar when trade winds weaken?

Coral chemistry shows strong link between winds and temperature regimes

Staff Report

FRISCO — In the complex climate puzzle of the Pacific Ocean, the trade winds may be a key piece regulating the rate of global warming, according to new research that links the intensity of those winds to global temperatures.

The study, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Arizona, tracked chemical changes in coral to show that when when trade winds weakened in the early 20th century, global temperatures warmed rapidly. When the natural pattern shifted and winds began to strengthen after 1940, the warming slowed. Continue reading

Can some Caribbean corals survive global warming?

Coral and other marine resources in the Florida Keys are at risk from an approaching oil plume.

Some corals are less sensitive to ocean acidification than others, according to a new study. Photo via NOAA.

Study say soft Gorgonian coral species can still calcify under elevated CO2 levels

Staff Report

FRISCO — Not all corals are equal when it comes to withstanding the ravages of global warming.

Some Caribbean soft corals, known as gorgonians, may be able to calcify and grow under elevated carbon dioxide concentrations. Those corals may be more resilient to the ocean acidification levels projected by the end of the 21st century than previously thought, according to a new study published in the journal Coral Reef. Continue reading

Mangroves may shelter some corals from global warming

Study documents ‘climate refuge’ in Virgin Islands

Boulder brain corals, for example, were found in abundance under the mangroves and were healthy, while many of those in unshaded areas a short distance away were bleaching. Photo Credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS

Boulder brain corals were found in abundance under the mangroves and were healthy, while many of those in unshaded areas a short distance away were bleaching.
Photo Credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some coral species are finding a refuge of sorts from global warming by finding new habitat in the shade of red mangrove trees.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and Eckerd College documented discovery of the refuge in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where more than 30 species of reef corals were found growing in Hurricane Hole, a mangrove habitat within the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument in St. John. Continue reading

Climate: Ocean acidification may be stunting coral growth

Mapping coral diseases is helping researchers determine the cause. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Coral growth is slowing dramatically along parts of the Great Barrier Reef. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Will the world’s coral reefs simply dissolve as oceans become more acidic?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists monitoring the Great Barrier Reef said they’ve tracked a “perilous” 40 percent slowdown in coral growth rates since the 1970s.

The trend may be linked with increasing ocean acidification, according to the new study led  by researchers with the Carnegie Institution for Science.

The researchers compared current measurements of the growth rate of a section of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef with similar measurements taken more than 30 years ago. Continue reading

Climate: Too hot for Florida’s coral reefs?

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Observations around the Florida Keys show a big jump in the average late-summer water temperature, leading to increased coral reef die-offs.

New USGS study documents dramatic increase in ocean temperatures around the Florida Keys

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even without a big ocean-warming El Niño event, coral reefs around the Florida Keys are being stressed by warmer water. Scientists say the number of bleaching events is going up as average sea surface temperatures in the region increase.

Just in the past few decades, average late-summer water temperatures near the Florida Keys were warmer by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit compared to a century earlier, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey. Continue reading

Environment: NOAA lists 20 coral species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act

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Widespread threats lead to “threatened” listing for 20 coral species under the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Conservation and recovery plans will be crafted in partnership with coastal communities

Staff Report

FRISCO — Twenty types of coral in the Pacific and Caribbean will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, federal officials announced this week, citing declines of up to 90 percent in some species. Continue reading

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