Apr 29, 2016

Great Barrier Reef bleaching would be almost impossible without climate change

Great Barrier Reef, QLD
Australia
by
Andrew King
,
The Conversation
Coral Bleaching at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: XL Catlin Seaview Survey
Coral Bleaching at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: XL Catlin Seaview Survey

The worst bleaching event on record has affected corals across the Great Barrier Reef in the last few months. As of the end of March, a whopping 93% of the reef has experienced bleaching. This event has led scientists and high-profile figures such as Sir David Attenborough to call for urgent action to protect the reef from annihilation.

There is indisputable evidence that climate change is harming the reef. Yet, so far, no one has assessed how much climate change might be contributing to bleaching events such as the one we have just witnessed.

Unusually warm sea surface temperatures are strongly associated with bleaching. Because climate models can simulate these warm sea surface temperatures, we can investigate how climate change is altering extreme warm conditions across the region