[Coral-List] La Nina and global warming

Billy Causey billy.causey at noaa.gov
Wed Dec 1 17:00:16 EST 2010

I carefully weigh in on this dialog with just a couple of additions to 
the great points Doug has raised.  It's also important to discuss 
climate change as it relates to coral health because as the water 
temperatures increase, so does the microbial activity in the coastal and 
marine environment.  And then, you add nutrients to the mix, like we 
have in the Florida Keys and other island areas,  a simplistic result is 
that you feed the microbes.  Then all sorts of coral diseases start 
showing up.  One of the controlling parameters has been how long the 
water remains warm, due to elevated sea surface temperatures ...that 
result from climate change and how polluted the water is in the area.  
So, it is all connected in a synergistic and complex way.  The same 
thing happens to fish.  It was no accident that while we were having 
massive coral bleaching events in the Wider Caribbean in 1997-98, that 
we were having major outbreaks of coral diseases, fish dying from 
Brookenella and there were coastal harmful algal blooms in China, the 
Gulf and elsewhere on a global scale, at the same time and we were 
having a major Pfiesteria outbreak along the eastern seaboard of the 
United States.

In my opinion, Doug is correct that coral bleaching and ocean 
acidification are serious responses from the impacts of climate change, 
but we are just starting to unravel the complexity of the full range of 
impacts from climate change to coastal and marine environments.  In the 
late 1970s and throughout the 1980's it was  the tropical coral reefs of 
the Caribbean that were responding.  Next, we will see more temperate 
environments responding to ever-increasing sea surface temperatures..... 
and due to climate change. 


dfenner dfenner wrote:
> Tom,
>      The reason global warming or climate change is important for coral-list
> is because it is now viewed as the single greatest threat to coral reefs in
> the coming decades.  A survey of coral reef scientists in the International
> Coral Reef Society some years ago put it way down the list of threats.  A
> recent survey of people in the same body came up with it at the top of the
> list.  The threat is not for increased temperatures increasing the range in
> which corals can live.  The threat comes from mass coral bleaching and
> acidification.  Mass coral bleaching is highly correlated with high sea
> surface temperatures (and also seems to correlate with still periods of
> clear water).  The correlation is so good that the NOAA Coral Watch group
> has a whole series of products where they map sea surface temperatures,
> temperature anomalies, hotspots, degree heating weeks, etc.  All very useful
> tools available on the web for free, for predicting when and where mass
> coral bleaching will happen.  Useful because it has been proven to work,
> when the indicators say bleaching will likely occur if the conditions
> continue, then bleaching usually does occur there (and not when and where it
> says it won't).  Because mass bleaching is caused primarily by high water
> temperatures, and because water temperatures are rising, it is highly likely
> that mass coral bleaching events will be more common and severe in the
> future.  In mild events, many or most corals recover (though they can't grow
> while bleached or reproduce for a year or more afterwords).  In severe
> events, many or most corals can die, even almost all.  16% of the world's
> corals were estimated to have died in the hot waters of 1998, and places
> like the Maldives had 95% or more of all corals die.  Mass bleaching events
> caused by hot water were not reported before just a couple decades ago, and
> they are increasing in intensity and frequency.  So global warming is
> vitally important to the future of coral reefs around the world.  In
> addition, the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (which
> is not disputed) decreases the pH, the alkalinity, of the ocean.  That in
> turn makes it more difficult for calcium carbonate to precipitate and easier
> for it to dissolve.  Even if the world does not warm, this will cause severe
> problems for coral reefs.
>      I dare say virtually everybody who is concerned with climate change and
> acidification on coral reefs is also concerned about the many other factors
> that have caused damage on reefs and are threatening future damage to
> reefs.  Most people who are concerned about reefs are working flat out on
> those problems, as well as trying to figure out what to do about climate
> change.  To save reefs, we have to work on all of them, and I've never heard
> anyone say that we should work only on climate change and ignore the other
> threats.  But climate change is the 800 pound gorilla sitting in the corner
> of the room, and all our other efforts are likely to be overwhelmed by hot
> water-caused coral deaths if we ignore it for a few more decades. In fact,
> one of the few things we can do to combat the effects of global warming and
> bleaching on reefs is to reduce other threats, so reefs are healthier, and
> more resilient, able to recover.  That's a point that people concerned about
> mass bleaching have made over and over, so, far from ignoring other threats,
> they are actually stressing that reducing other threats is the most
> important direct tool for countering the effects of global warming on reefs.
>   I would like to thank all those working tirelessly on the many problems
> coral reefs face, and there are very many of you.  I urge all to not forget
> or neglect all the other problems.  But climate change needs to be an
> important part of our efforts, and reducing the amount of CO2 released is
> absolutely necessary for saving reefs in the long term (meaning the next
> several decades).  And that doesn't even depend on whether you think global
> warming is real or human-caused (acidification alone is enough).     Doug
> On Sun, Nov 28, 2010 at 6:07 AM, Tom Williams <ctwiliams at yahoo.com> wrote:
>> Steve
>> Global Warming/Climate Change does relate to corals and yes we use to have
>> coral reefs in central california; we use to have tropical waters over much
>> of the central valley but I don't start talking about the melting of the
>> tundra/permafrost or the opening of the Arctic Pack Ice on Coral List....are
>> they related - kind of.
>> But we can talk about what are the GW aspects of the northern and southern
>> most corals - say those on the south end of Hainan Island in South
>> China...north edge of South China Sea...Do we see any changes in sea water
>> temps north of Bermuda...
>> I don't want anyone restricted other than saying how GW is either affecting
>> or not yet affecting corals at XYZ...be they skeptics, scientists, or lots
>> of "small people" and I don't worry about religious or political swings of
>> anyone as long as we are talking corals, reefs, and marine ecology...
>> Many aspects of the GW (note NOT using CC) are not directly related to
>> oceanography (thermodynamics of the thermal differences between the
>> equator/polar and drivers for jet stream) but then they can be related to
>> the winds  then to currents and then to sea water temp and eventually to
>> corals...ALL I ask is to keep the focus on corals as the list states, and
>> yeh even reef balls...how about the changes in starfish distribution and
>> their effects on corals...
>> Does anyone have the address for the best science-blog-list for global
>> warming or even climate change????? I have always been leaning on te
>> climatological sides but worked in the North Slope conditions...influenced
>> by Antarctic climatologist and Quaternary glaciologist along with 6 months
>> on fisheries for the first offshore oil production platform in the US Arctic
>> ocean...
>> BUT Where are the reefs that would be first affected by GW East/West Coasts
>> of Pacific/Atlantic...any indicators in Diego Garcia or the wester/eastern
>> coasts of the Indian OCeans...
>> Tom
>> --- On Fri, 11/26/10, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> wrote:
>> From: Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net>
>> Subject: [Coral-List] La Nina and global warming
>> To: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>> Date: Friday, November 26, 2010, 8:07 PM
>> It appears that some desire to restrict or cut off discussion of climate
>> change
>> issues on the list. They argue that the topic doesn't pertain to coral
>> reefs
>> or marine ecosystems and that these discussions would be more appropriate
>> if
>> confined to other venues where atmospheric considerations dominate. Others
>> want to impose selective criteria on anyone posting comments that qualify as
>> "pro-AGW".
>> (Hopefully, no one on either side is pro anthropogenic global warming)
>> But, be that as it may, it should be pointed out that the current thread
>> began
>> with the proddings of one of list's more outspoken anthropogenic climate
>> change
>> skeptics. (If that term can be used in an endearing sense as there is no
>> intention of accusing anyone of heretical behavior.) In fact, I would say
>> that although his views  often draw fire, to his credit he (Gene) has never
>> suggested that the debate be muted.
>> Whenever it is suggested that contributors be limited by arbitrary criteria
>> or
>> topics forbidden by a similar paradigm it becomes an advocacy for
>> censorship.
>> I would hope that the Coral-List would want to avoid such an overt
>> suppression
>> of thought.
>> This is not a religious debate, but an examination of scientific facts,
>> albeit with
>> some level of prognostication as is common in developing any theoretical
>> concept.
>> It is not contrived, designed to control the list or meant to induce fear.
>> Nor are these exchanges preventing the introduction of alternate topics.
>> We can all probably do more in our everyday lives to improve the situation,
>> but restricting the exchange of ideas isn't one of them.
>> We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a
>> false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.
>> ~John Stuart Mill
>>   We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a
>> false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.
>> ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859
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Billy D. Causey, Ph.D., Regional Director
Southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Region
National Marine Sanctuary Program
33 East Quay Road
Key West, Florida 33040

305.809.4670 (ex 234)
305.395.0150 (cell)
305.293.5011 (fax)

Billy.Causey at noaa.gov

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