[Coral-List] Fwd: NOAA’s global coral bleaching prediction and monitoring get major upgrades

Mark Eakin mark.eakin at noaa.gov
Mon Jul 9 19:19:09 EDT 2012

Begin forwarded message:

*From:* NOAA News Releases <news.releases at noaa.gov>
*Date:* July 10, 2012 0:52:27 GMT+10:00
*To:* mark.eakin at noaa.gov
*Subject:* *NOAA’s global coral bleaching prediction and monitoring get
major upgrades*
*Reply-To:* press.releases at noaa.gov


Contact:          Ben Sherman                                      *FOR

July 9, 2012

                        ben.sherman at noaa.gov

*NOAA’s global coral bleaching prediction and monitoring get major upgrades*

*First four-month forecast issued; no bleaching seen in Northern Hemisphere
through October*

NOAA announced today a major advance in the ability to predict mass coral
bleaching – providing the probability of bleaching up to four months into
the future – with a newly developed global seasonal outlook system.

Using the new seasonal ecological forecast system, unveiled at the
International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, Australia, NOAA’s Coral Reef
Watch does not anticipate any large scale coral bleaching events in the
Northern Hemisphere through October 2012.

“This advance in bleaching warning systems represents another milestone in
our efforts to save the world’s critically important reef systems,” said
Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and
atmosphere and NOAA administrator, in the symposium’s keynote address. “The
state of reefs today should raise concerns for everyone. Reef ecosystems
are globally important, and healthy reefs are the life-line for local
communities. Their continued existence is a moral imperative for the global

“NOAA is firmly committed to bring new scientific efforts to change the
current trajectory of loss of reefs and the services they provide,” she

Every week, the new system uses 28 runs of NOAA’s latest climate model to
warn coral reef managers, scientists, stakeholders, and the public of
large-scale bleaching events. It builds upon the first global seasonal
bleaching outlook system, released by NOAA in 2008.

The new system uses sea surface temperature forecasts from NOAA’s
operational climate forecast system, the same system used for predicting El
Niño and seasonal temperature and precipitation forecasts. Coral bleaching
occurs when stress, usually high temperature, causes corals to expel their
symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) and, if prolonged or particularly severe,
may result in coral death.

NOAA has also significantly advanced near-real time satellite monitoring of
the high ocean temperatures that can cause coral bleaching. A new
generation version of NOAA’s product suite now provides daily 5-km
satellite monitoring of coral bleaching thermal stress for reefs around the
world. This represents 100 times finer resolution, more frequent
observations, and more data than the current twice-weekly 50-km global
satellite coral bleaching monitoring.

The new products use a blend of data from NOAA and international partner
environmental satellites that orbit the globe with data from geostationary
weather satellites, providing 10 to 50 times more observations each day
than the old products. NOAA has been providing the current coral bleaching
products to U.S. and international coral reef communities since 1997. These
products have been very successful in detecting the thermal stress
typically associated with mass coral bleaching.

During most mass bleachings, high ocean temperatures usually occur over a
broad area that includes both coral reefs and adjacent open ocean waters.
Since coastal water temperatures over reefs often are higher than those in
other areas, NOAA’s old products often underestimated the thermal stress
associated with a bleaching event or missed small-scale features found
right over reefs. The new 5-km products should correct for this.

“Advances in coral reef management practices have driven the need for
higher resolution monitoring and enhanced prediction of coral bleaching,”
said C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D., coordinator of NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch program..
“Higher resolution products, which is the improvement to Coral Reef Watch
products most requested by scientists and resource managers, allow us to
more accurately predict mass coral bleaching events, as well as more
accurately account for episodes of minor or no coral bleaching.”

Healthy coral reefs support commercial and subsistence fisheries as well as
jobs and businesses through tourism and recreation. Local economies also
receive billions of dollars from visitors to reefs through diving tours,
recreational fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses based
near reef ecosystems.

NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch partnered with the NOAA National Centers for
Environmental Prediction to develop the next-generation global seasonal
bleaching outlook. Research and development of the high-resolution, 5-km
coral bleaching thermal stress monitoring products has been a partnership
between Coral Reef Watch, NOAA’s Center for Satellite Applications and
Research, NASA, the University of South Florida, the United Nations
Environmental Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and the
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science. Both new
products were supported by funding from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation
Program and are now available on the Coral Reef Watch website.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's
environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to
conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook,
Twitter and our other social media channels at

On the Web:

NOAA Coral Reef Watch: http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/index.html

NOAA Coral Program: http://coralreef.noaa.gov/

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