[Coral-List] A New Year, More Coral Bleaching

Mark Eakin mark.eakin at noaa.gov
Fri Jan 2 11:09:36 EST 2015

Both our 50-km operational products and our new 5-km products continue to show a wide region of warm water capable of causing bleaching. The warmest water has moved south with the seasonal movement of the sun, allowing the Republic of the Marshall Islands to cool down but heating up reefs to the south. The hottest conditions are now resulting in Alert Level 2 (DHW > 8) for Nauru and Tapiwa (westernmost Gilbert Islands) and Alert Level 1 (DHW>4) for eastern parts of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. This pattern is quite apparent in our Pacific basin images at: http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/bleaching5km/index.php

Our Seasonal Bleaching Outlook shows the area of significant bleaching chance expanding to encompass the Northern Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Wallis and Fortuna, and parts of the Samoas. Lower levels of thermal stress that could result in more limited bleaching are expected for much of the western South Pacific, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The pattern of warming in the climate models continues to follow an El Niño-like pattern, indicating severe thermal stress and significant bleaching are likely in the Indian Ocean as well. This includes the northern coast of Western Australia including Scott and Ashmore Reefs, and eastern Madagascar, Reunion, and Mauritius, to the west.
You can see these patterns in our Seasonal Bleaching Outlook at:

To get an idea of the spatial and temporal patterns of bleaching we might expect from this currently unofficial mild El Niño, please check out this web page that we created to document the pattern in 1998:
The pattern was similar in 2010 during a much milder El Niño much like the conditions we are currently seeing.

We are working on new Regional Virtual Stations based on our new 5-km bleaching products that should be ready soon and we will put them online as soon as they are ready.

Our thanks to Karl Fellenius for putting together a comprehensive report on the bleaching in the Marshall Islands. Please send all bleaching observations to coralreefwatch at noaa.gov and/or the NOAA/ReefBase collaborative online bleaching report  form: http://www.reefbase.org/contribute/bleachingreport.aspx. Your bleaching observations (including observations of no bleaching) are greatly appreciated. Should you have any questions or feedback on our Coral Reef Watch products, please send an e-mail to coralreefwatch at noaa.gov.

Happy New Year to all. Here’s to hoping that my concerns are wrong and the Pacific will cool down!


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

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