NOAA Press Release -- Bleaching

astrong at astrong at
Wed Dec 2 15:28:23 EST 1998

NOAA 98-84
						CONTACT:  Patricia Viets, NOAA  

 (301) 457-5005                		 	12/2/98


	An international team of coral reef experts has reported that high sea 
surface temperatures in 1998 have affected almost all species of corals, leading 
to unprecedented global coral bleaching and mortality, the Commerce Department's 
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said today.
	Corals live on the upper edge of their temperature tolerance, with high 
temperatures directly damaging them. This means that the increase by about 2 
degrees Celsius predicted by the Intergovernmental  Panel on Climate Change for 
the next 50 years would pose a serious threat.  The 1998 bleaching event may 
have far-reaching  negative consequences for human health and economies that 
depend on biodiversity, fisheries, tourism and shore protection provided by 
coral reefs.

	The group of experts, attending the International Tropical Marine 
Ecosystems Management Symposium conference in Townsville, Queensville, at 
Australia's Great Barrier Reef, also reported that associated reef invertebrates 
have been affected by warmer sea temperatures.  Loss of some corals more than 
1000 years old indicates the severity of this event.

	"Managers and scientists from around the globe are particularly 
concerned about this past year's unprecedented, global bleaching episode," said 
D. James Baker, NOAA administrator.  "The bleaching and mortality rate may even 
worsen in the years ahead.  This serves as a wake-up call for more research and 
monitoring to help protect these valuable coral reef ecosystems."

	Global coral bleaching and die-off was unprecedented in 1998 in 
geographic extent, depth, and severity.  Although the effects were uneven and 
patchy, the only major reef region spared from coral bleaching appears to be the 
Central Pacific.  In some parts of the Indian Ocean, mortality is as high as 90 

	Reefs in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Tanzania were devastated, 
with shallow reefs looking like graveyards.  Many reefs in Southeast Asia have 
been similarly affected.  Countries worst hit were Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, 
Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and the islands of Palau.  This will 
impact severely on the livelihoods of millions of people.

	Current projections of global warming suggest there could be increased 
frequency of coral bleaching and coral mortality.

	The meeting concluded that this is a matter of particular concern for 
dozens of developing nations, especially tropical small islands, because healthy 
coral reefs are crucial to their inhabitants' economic and social survival.

	Alan Strong, a NOAA oceanographer, has tracked sea surface temperatures 
and coral reef events worldwide and was part of the team reporting the 
unprecedented results for 1998.  He is  working with Australian scientists to 
develop future research collaboration with NOAA using satellites and buoys more 
effectively in coral reef studies.  Strong said that an international conference 
is being planned for Hawaii in June 1999 to help assess and stimulate further 
satellite research of reefs.


Maps showing twice-weekly distributions of hot spots are available at:

Movie/animations are posted at:

Maps showing the annual distribution of bleaching from 1969 through 1997 are 
posted at:

**** <>< ******* <>< ******* <>< ******* <>< ******* <>< ******* <>< *****
Alan E. Strong
  Phys Scientist/Oceanographer                    Adj Assoc Res Professor
  NOAA/NESDIS/ORA/ORAD -- E/RA3                    US Naval Academy
  NOAA Science Center -- RM 711W                    Oceanography Department
  5200 Auth Road                                        Annapolis, MD 21402
  Camp Springs, MD 20746-4304                            410-293-6550
        Alan.E.Strong at
  301-763-8102 x170    FAX: 301-763-8108

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