Coral Bleaching in the North Pacific Ocean Could Reach ‘Historic’ Levels in Near Future : Science : University Herald

Coral Bleaching in the North Pacific Ocean Could Reach ‘Historic’ Levels in Near Future : Science : University Herald

Coral Bleaching in the North Pacific Ocean Could Reach ‘Historic’ Levels in Near Future

Dec 23, 2014 11:00 AM EST

Coral Bleaching
(Photo : Flickr/CC) Coral bleaching almost resembles snowfall on trees.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have found significant coral bleaching in the North Pacific that may the worst instance in the last 20 years.

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According to the Guardian, the NOAA organized a Corl Reef Waatch program in July to monitor the potentially “historic” situation. Dr. Mark Eakin, the program’s coordinator, said Northern Marianas Islands, Guam, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Hawaii, Kiribati and Florida could be affected.

“On a global scale it’s a major bleaching event,” he told the Guardian. “What it may be is the beginning of a historic event.”

Ocean temperatures have been on the rise this year and no month on record has been warmer than Sept., though there has not been an associated El Niño weather event.

“We’re seeing a rising background temperatures, we’re seeing this increase in the thermal content of the oceans and as that happens it doesn’t take as nearly as big of an event to set off this chain of bleaching,” Eakin told Mashable.

Bleaching is brought on by increasingly warm waters and the phenomenon could reach the Great Barrier Reef early in the New Year. Bleaching is also a cause for the die-off of reefs.

“Despite the fact that there’s really not a big El Niño, we’re seeing these patterns of severe bleaching,” Eakin told the Guardian. “So what’s happening is, as global temperatures increase and especially as the ocean warms through the increase of carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gases in the atmosphere, it’s warming the ocean so that it doesn’t take as big an El Niño to have the same effect on water temperatures.

“The real problem is that recovery from a major bleaching event can take decades and these events keep coming back every 10 years or less… [Reefs] just don’t have time to recover.”

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