Third Time’s a Disaster: Latest Coral Bleaching Hits Reefs Worldwide

Scientists have confirmed that for only the third time ever recorded, bleaching is hitting coral reefs on a global scale.

The devastating impacts could be longer and more severe than any previous event, said researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The problem is, the water temperatures and coral bleaching we’re seeing now are what you would expect during an El Niño year, but we haven’t even gotten to the expected 2015–16 event yet,” said Mark Eakin, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch coordinator.

What’s happened is that the giant, unusually warm water mass that has loitered in the Pacific Ocean since 2014 is about to merge with 2015’s expected El Niño weather event. Couple that with warmer ocean temperatures overall thanks to climate change, and as much as 4,633 square miles of vibrant coral reefs—approximately 38 percent of the world’s corals—could be damaged by the end of this year. Five percent of the reefs could be lost for good.

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