According to a U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) report released Thursday, an underwater heat wave may lead to more coral bleaching in the world’s oceans.
It is the third time on record that the heat wave and a mysterious patch of warm water called “The Blob” strike coral reefs.
Other reports show that rising sea temperatures linked to climate change may kill corals on over 4,600 square miles, which accounts for five percent of all corals in the world. Climate experts, however, failed to link The Blob with climate change.
But this is not the first time NOAA issues an alert on the risk posed by high temperatures to coral health. The agency issued similar reports in 2010 and 1998, two years that broke temperatures records.
Corals’ demise may trigger the extinction of other sea creatures because they are nurseries to many species of fish and algae. When they are stressed out by warm temperatures, for instance, they eject the algae that dwell inside them and turn white. Soon afterward, if they fail to recover or are hit by another wave of heat they eventually die.
Corals also help local economies because they lure in tourists in regions that has nothing else to offer.
Mark Eakin of the NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch recently said that this is the third global bleaching event on record. Conservationists noticed bleaching events across the northern Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Indian oceans.
The northern Pacific was devastated by a patch of warm water of unknown origins called “The Blob.” Corals there suffered unprecedented bleaching. Eakin declined to link “The Blob” to climate change. He said that the phenomenon’s origins remain a mystery.
Other alerts about global beaching were issued in 1998 and 2010. Both overlapped with El Nino events. These atmospheric phenomena warm up the tropical Pacific and can hike temperatures worldwide, worsening climate change’s effects.
Richard Vevers likened coral bleaching to a strange phenomenon that turns tropical forest white before it kills them. Vevers is one of the researchers that worked on the report showing that underwater heat wave may lead to more coral bleaching. He also said that the last two major bleaching events went almost unnoticed.
NOAA researchers recommend people living on the coasts with bleached corals not to stress them out more and refrain from overfishing and spreading pollution such as washing their cars and allowing chemicals from cleaning products to reach the ocean.
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