Publication Date March 29, 2016

El Niño’s warmth devastating reefs worldwide

Images from December 2014 (left) and February 2015 show coral bleaching in the Pacific waters around American Samoa. Photo: XL Catlin Seaview Survey

On 20 March, the GBR Marine Park Authority in Townsville, Australia, reported that divers were finding extensive coral bleaching—the loss of symbiotic algae—in remote northern areas of the reef. Many sections were already dead.

Subsequent flyover surveys have confirmed an unfolding disaster: “Only four reefs out of 520 [observed] had no bleaching,” says Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Townsville, who personally checked the northernmost 1000 kilometers of the 2300-kilometer reef system over 4 days last week