Feb 23, 2016

Longest global coral bleaching on record isn’t over yet

Indonesia
Papua New Guinea
by
Brian Kahn
,
Wx Shift
Airport Reef in American Samoa at the height of a bleaching event in February 2015. Photo: XL Catlin Seaview Survey
Airport Reef in American Samoa at the height of a bleaching event in February 2015. Photo: XL Catlin Seaview Survey

The Pacific Ocean has been the epicenter of the global bleaching event and Christmas Island has been the tiny bullseye of that epicenter. The 150 square mile island sits right in the middle of the El Niño-warmed waters.


Coral there have been subjected to some of the most stressful conditions anywhere in the world. Specifically, El Niño sent water temperatures as high as 88°F, or about 6°F above normal, in the region. That extended period of stress had already killed off a wide array of corals when Kim Cobb, a coral expert at Georgia Tech, visited the reef in November during peak El Niño heat.