Bleaching sounds like something that only applies to laundry, but think again — it’s a true effect of climate change on our world’s coral reefs. Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently found that more than one-third of the coral reefs on our planet are at risk of bleaching this year.
But what exactly is this type of bleaching?
In terms of coral reefs, bleaching occurs when they cannot stand the warming ocean water. This year, reefs have felt the impact of events like El Nino, in addition to warm temperatures, according to NBC News.
“The coral bleaching and disease, brought on by climate change and coupled with events like the current El NiÃ±o, are the largest and most pervasive threats to coral reefs around the world,” NOAA coral reef researcher Mark Eakin said in a statement, according to NBC News. “What really has us concerned is this event has been going on for more than a year and our preliminary model projections indicate it’s likely to last well into 2016.”
And if you’re wondering, coral reefsÂ doÂ substantially lose color as a result of bleaching. By the end of 2015, scientists predict that 4,600 square miles of coral reef will die as a result of it. About 95 percent of reefs in the U.S. will be exposed to bleaching when the year comes to a close.
Protecting Our Planet’s Reefs
Lately, it’s seemed like there has been a lot of bad news surrounding coral reefs. However, it’s worth taking a few moments to observe some of theÂ positiveÂ steps scientists are taking to ensure that they’re around for generations to come.
For starters, the NOAA has established the Coral Reef Conservation Program to work with scientific, private, government and non-government organizations for the sake of saving the reefs. The NOAA is also now using satellite imagery and GPS technology to monitor reefs in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaiian Islands. By doing so, it can keep an eye on everything from ocean temperatures to harmful algae blooms.
Additionally, NOAA is using the Coral Reef Early Warning System to monitor air temperature, wind speed and direction, among other factors that could influence reef survival.
While it may seem like there isn’t much going for coral reefs these days, it’s nice to know that there are some educated people out there, keeping a close watch on these gems.
Deluca, Matthew. “Coral Reefs Around the World Threatened by Bleaching, NOAA Says.” NBC News. October 8, 2015.
“Corals.” NOAA. Retrieved October 15, 2015.