Earth & Science

Dying Corals are Waiting for Rough Weather

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Extreme sea surface temperatures are causing some of the world’s most vibrant and colorful seascapes to shut down and die. Concerns are growing that this year will prove as fatal to oceanic ecosystems as the damages in 2005.

Image Source: NOAA

“Scientists are already reporting coral bleaching at several Caribbean sites and severe bleaching has been reported from other parts of the world,” writes NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a recent report. There is a serious risque, says the report, that damages will twin or even top the damages of 2005 when more than 80 percent of Caribbean corals were bleached and over 40 percent destroyed.

Now corals are waiting for rough weather to save the day.

According to NOAA researchers, tropical weather systems have been shown to cool water temperatures along their path. Arriving in time, hurricanes could help the situation by cooling sea surface temperatures and restoring normal conditions to the corals on their path.

With a recent forecast predicting an above average hurricane activity this year, there is a real chance that the cooling effect of rough weather will actually come to pass—at least along areas like the Virgin Islands where tropical storms are frequent visitors.

“In 2005, the year of the worst bleaching on record in the Caribbean, no tropical storms passed close enough to cool the Virgin Islands, resulting in 90 percent of the area corals being bleached and 60 percent dying,” says the NOAA report.

Rain Forests of the Sea
Home to the richest ecosystems in the ocean, the coral reefs are often referred to as the rain forests of the sea. They are not just important hotbeds of marine biodiversity but also the foundation that millions of fishermen depend upon for sustenance and income. On a global scale, coral reefs are estimated to provide services in the $300 billion range every year.

Scientists at the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network in Australia, say the troubles of the reefs are significantly linked to issues of Global Warming. Severely cutting carbon emission may be the only way to sustainably decrease rising sea surface temperatures.

“I am significantly depressed by the whole situation,” says Clive Wilkinson, director of the Australian monitoring network, to the New York Times.

Written by Earth & Science

September 23, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Climate Change, Seas

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