Great Barrier Reef at risk of second severe coral bleaching summer
Global warming further leaves its mark on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia as experts hope a well-times cyclone later in the year will help save them.
This month, ocean temperatures across areas of the Great Barrier Reef reached record highs, raising worries of a second summer of severe coral bleaching, a report by The Guardian noted.
According to data from the US government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), sea surface temperatures over the northern areas of the reef have been the highest for any November since 1985.
The report cited Professor Terry Hughes of James Cook University, a prominent scientist on coral bleaching, saying that he had never seen heat stress accumulate on the reef this early. Hughes further added that a “well-timed cyclone” in December could diminish the risk of bleaching.
The professor further noted that “it is certainly the case that temperature records are tumbling. The warning signs are clear.”
Sea surface temperatures in the northern and central #GreatBarrierReef are now 2 degrees centigrade hotter than the 2002-2011 average.— Terry Hughes (@ProfTerryHughes) November 24, 2022
In absolute terms, it’s already about 29C in the north, with 3 months to go before the summer maximum. pic.twitter.com/Sb8qsTg6lM
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) proclaimed widespread bleaching last summer as the first occurrence during a La Nia - a climatic trend that has typically kept ocean temperatures low enough to avert bleaching.
On that note, Hughes highlighted that “according to NOAA’s predictions there’s a good chance we will see another back-to-back bleaching event. That was not supposed to be happening until the middle of this century.”
According to the current NOAA projection, extensive portions of the northern reef will likely see major bleaching by late January, with some places experiencing enough heat to induce coral mortality in the weeks following.
Moreover, forecasts for sea surface temperatures from the Bureau of Meteorology anticipate heat accumulating on over the reef in December and January.
It is also worth noting that the report emphasized that the current temperatures in the center and northern areas of the reef are roughly 2 degrees Celsius above average, according to observations.