[Coral-List] NOAA Coral Reef Watch Issues First Seasonal Bleaching Forecast

Mark Eakin Mark.Eakin at noaa.gov
Thu Jul 10 15:31:54 EDT 2008

The following is a press release on our new seasonal bleaching  
forecast.  You can get full details at http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/ 




July 10, 2008


Ben Sherman            202-253-5256

John Leslie            301-457-5005

New NOAA Coral Bleaching Prediction System Calls for Low Level of Coral

Bleaching in Caribbean this Year

More severe bleaching expected in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

              A new NOAA coral bleaching prediction system indicates  
that there will be some bleaching in the Caribbean later this year,  
but the event will probably not be severe. NOAA issued the first-ever  
seasonal coral bleaching outlook this week at the 11th International  
Coral Reef Symposium in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

The system suggests that there is a risk of widespread bleaching in  
the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in August, but little bleaching  
elsewhere during the northern hemisphere summer.

             “The ability to predict coral bleaching events and  
provide advance warning is critically important to sustaining healthy  
reefs,” said Timothy R.E. Keeney, deputy assistant secretary of  
commerce for oceans and atmosphere and co-chair of the United States  
Coral Reef Task Force. “When coral reef managers and reef users are  
alerted, they can mobilize monitoring efforts, develop response  
strategies, and educate reef users and the public on coral bleaching  
and possible effects on reef resources.”

The new prediction system uses NOAA experimental sea surface  
temperature forecasts to develop maps of anticipated coral bleaching  
severity during the upcoming bleaching season (August to October).  
While NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch Program uses satellite sea surface  
temperature data to alert managers and scientists around the world of  
the risk of coral bleaching, the prediction system includes longer  
range temperature forecasts up to three months.

             Coral bleaching is associated with a variety of  
stresses, especially increased ocean temperatures. This causes the  
coral to expel symbiotic micro-algae living in their tissues – algae  
that provide corals with food. Losing their algae leaves coral  
tissues devoid of color, and thus they appear bleached. Prolonged  
coral bleaching of over a week can lead to coral death and the loss  
of coral reef habitats for a range of marine life.

             A major coral bleaching event occurred in the Caribbean  
in 2005, resulting in significant coral death in much of the region.

             “As global temperatures continue to climb, predicting  
coral bleaching becomes even more critical," said Dr. C. Mark Eakin,  
coordinator of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch Program. “Our goal is to issue  
bleaching forecasts for coral reefs worldwide.”

The new system was developed by scientists in NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch  
in Silver Spring, Md. and NOAA’s Earth Science Research Laboratory in  
Boulder, Colo., with funding from the NOAA Climate Program Office’s  
Sectoral Applications Research Program and NOAA’s Coral Reef  
Conservation Program.

             The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an  
agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing  
economic security and national safety through the prediction and  
research of weather and climate-related events and information  
service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental  
stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the  
emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is  
working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the  
European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as  
integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

- 30 -

On the Web:
NOAA: http://www.noaa.gov
NOAA Coral Reef Watch: http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov
NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program: http://www.coralreef.noaa.gov

C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D.
Coordinator, NOAA Coral Reef Watch
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Center for Satellite Applications and Research
Satellite Oceanography & Climate Division
e-mail: mark.eakin at noaa.gov
url: coralreefwatch.noaa.gov

E/RA31, SSMC1, Room 5308
1335 East West Hwy
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3226
301-713-2857 x109                   Fax: 301-713-3136

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