2010 Caribbean and SE Asia coral bleaching could be worst ever

The hottest January – September 2010 period on record has driven a massive coral bleaching event in the northern hemisphere.

Eli Kintisch reports at Science online:

“Scientists studying Caribbean reefs say that 2010 may be the worst year ever for coral death there. Abnormally warm water since June appears to have dealt a blow to shallow and deep-sea corals that is likely to top the devastation of 2005, when 80% of corals were bleached and as many as 40% died in areas on the eastern side of the Caribbean.”

The situation is equally grim in South-East Asia. Dr Andrew Baird of the ARC Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University reports that across the Indian Ocean and into the Coral Triangle from the Seychelles in the west to Sulawesi and the Philippines in the east and including reefs in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia:

“It is certainly the worst coral die-off we have seen since 1998. It may prove to be the worst such event known to science. So far around 80 percent of Acropora colonies and 50 percent of colonies from other species have died since the outbreak began in May this year.”

It remains to be seen whether the extreme water temperatures experienced during the northern hemisphere summer will continue into the southern hemisphere 2010/2011 summer and affect coral reefs south of the equator such as the Great Barrier Reef.

Hat-tip: Joe Romm at Climate Progress

Related posts: Coral reefs are bleaching worldwide

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