Australia’s National Climate Centre (which is housed by the Bureau of Meteorology) undertakes real-time analysis of sea surface temperature around Australia. This is an important task in terms of assessing the risk faced from climate change by our fisheries and assets such as the Great Barrier Reef.
The latest analysis of the Coral Sea region is of significant interest. The warming trend is unmistakable and is statistically significant. And it turns out that 2009 was the eighth warmest year on record for this region. Experts at the National Climate Centre have also suggested that 2010 is likely to be a near-record temperature based on the evolution of the current El Niño event.
With every increase in sea surface temperature, critical organisms such as reef-building corals are pushed closer to the threshold at which they undergo mass coral bleaching and mortality. This is essentially an issue of increasing risk. With projections of future sea temperatures that are 2 or even 4°C above today, it is incredibly hard to argue that iconic and economically important assets like the Great Barrier Reef are not in the deep trouble.