Global Warming

Great Barrier Reef ‘cooking and dying’ as seas heat up

More than two-thirds of the coral in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is experiencing “shocking” amounts of bleaching, new aerial surveys have revealed.

Reefs of of Lizard Island before and after bleaching

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Back-to-back bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 have devastated a 1,500 km (900 miles) stretch of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Australian scientists told CNN Monday. Before 2016 there had only been two bleaching events along the Great Barrier Reef in the past two decades, in 1998 and 2002.

Last year’s bleaching event, the worst on record, mainly affected the north of the reef, while the recent damage has mostly impacted the middle sections. The bottom third of the reef is now the only section that has escaped significant bleaching.

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A temperature rise of only one or two degrees above the maximum average for up to “three or four weeks” is enough to push corals out of their comfort zone. When it’s so hot for this extended period of time the corals don’t just bleach, they cook and they die very quickly.

Mature staghorn coral near Lizard Island, after coral bleaching (February) and then after death when it has been consumed by seaweed (April).

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