Caribbean Reefs Face Severe Summer Threat
By Andrew C. Revkin
Coral reefs in a broad swath of the Caribbean face a substantial risk of severe bleaching and die-offs through October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Wednesday in its latest Coral Reef Watch report.
Similar conditions may develop in the southern Gulf of Mexico and central Pacific, the agency said. But the report said the widest area of high risk was in the southern Caribbean, from Nicaragua’s east coast across the south coasts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and from Puerto Rico south along the Lesser Antilles. Rising ocean temperatures are contributing to the risk, the report said, noting that the National Climatic Data Center reported that in June the world’s ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record.
From the report:
Scientists are concerned that bleaching may reach the same levels or exceed those recorded in 2005, the worst coral bleaching and disease year in Caribbean history. In parts of the eastern Caribbean, as much as 90 percent of corals bleached and over half of those died during that event.
The forecast said there was substantial risk of bleaching in parts of the Pacific Ocean, as well, and noted that this did not include the extra heat anticipated from a developing El Niño warming of the tropical Pacific.