Coral Bleaching Events and Sea Surface Temperatures

Coral Bleaching Events and Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly Hot Spots, 1997 – 1998

What you’re looking at here are deadly temperature changes as early as 1997. One direct measure of coral stress is the phenomenon of coral bleaching and mortality associated with widespread elevated sea surface temperatures (SSTs) during the last decade (Hoegh-Guldberg 1999). This is frequently associated with warm temperatures and has been widely predicted to increase in the future. Exposure for one month at temperatures 1 or 2 degrees Celsius higher than the mean averages at the warmest time of year is sufficient to cause the corals to bleach.

This map shows the distribution of SST anomalies and coral bleaching events, during one of the largest El Niño events of this century, from late 1997 until mid-1998. Although some records of local coral bleaching date back decades, reports of widespread bleaching have been increasing in recent years. The most recent event was not only widespread, but was also more severe in many areas than earlier events.

Actual coral death reached 95 percent in some locations. In a few places massive, centuries-old corals have died; in some other places there has now been at least a partial recovery, with loss of only a few corals.

That’s only part of the story though. Along with the inability of corals to survive, comes the climb of a global equivalent of Red Tides, and an exponential jump in the number of giant jellyfish. Meanwhile, shellfish, like the reefs themselves, are unable to utilize the calcium carbonate in the ocean, unable to make shells for themselves. Lobster, Crabs, plankton… the entire ocean is affected by the pollution we’re making. The ocean makes up about 3/4 of our planet. 3/4 of our globe is sick from our toxins. How much longer do you think we can afford to ignore that illness?

The affects of Global Warming and Greenhouse Gases are already upon us. Record temperatures have killed tens of thousands in the past 2 years. Greenland is melting down, and suffered 32 level 5 earthquakes within its icefields. While those quakes had been rising steadily, these past couple of years are exponentially worse – a clear shot across the bow. The glaciers are melting, the seas are rising, thinned by the fresh water… and the ocean’s temperatures are rising, despite the fact that we’re melting country-sized ice cubes in them.

Since 1998, we’ve continued to have anomaly temperatures, often much higher than those shown here. Greenhouse Gas (CO2) continues to mount and temperatures across the globe continue to rise. 2005 set records across the globe. In 2006, those records were beat again. The rise is so predictable that calling the temperatures an anomaly may not be fair or accurate.

The temperature of the earth IS rising, and the cause is known. Our air pollution is causing levels in CO2 to rise, a trend that has been consistent since it was first monitored in 1958. In the past few years, though, that climb has gone from steady and gradual to enormous, and the temperatures have followed suit, directly along the exact same course. A sharp and immediate halt to the human contributions to Greenhouse Gas remains the ONLY solution.

Fortunately, this solution is available to us. We CAN stop Global Warming.