The University of Queensland (UQ) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed that there will be a coral bleaching hitting the Great Barrier Reef in early 2016.

“If conditions continue to worsen, the Great Barrier Reef is set to suffer from widespread coral bleaching and subsequent mortality, the most common effect of rising sea temperatures,” The Director of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said, as UQ reported.

This phenomenon is expected to happen due to the warming ocean effect of El Niño. “When you have really hot summers, you can expect that corals will get stressed, and bleaching is likely” said Stephanie Wear, The Nature Conservancy’s director of coral reef conservation.

A bleached field of corals. Credits: Geographical UK

It was already predicted

The decline situation has been happening since 30-40 years ago. To date, 80 percent of corals in the Caribbean have been devastated and 50 percent in Indonesia and the Pacific.

These events are associated with the phenomenon El Niño that killed around 95 percent of coral in the Galapagos Islands (1982 – 1983). Later in 1997, the warm phase of El Niño eliminated 16 percent of all coral on the planet, the event extended until 1998

This recent event was already predicted by Ove Hoegh-Guldberg back in 1999, he warned about continued global temperature rising and said it would lead to a massive coral reefs decline by the middle of the XXI century.

“In 1999 my research predicted mass coral bleaching events to become successively worse over time if we failed to deal with rising atmospheric gases. Unfortunately, 16 years later, these predictions are beginning to unfold.” said Hoegh-Guldberg, as UQ reported.

According to NOAA, this would be the third recorded global bleaching event in history, “In the first major global event in 1998, more than half the Great Barrier Reef experienced bleaching with about 5 to 10 percent of the corals dying.” Hoegh-Guldberg told The Guardian.

Coral Bleaching

The marine invertebrates, are tiny creatures which build stony skeletons. But when they are under stress, the coral tends to eject the colorful algae they have. This event is happening on all the islands.
With El Niño, coral reefs are expected to die massively. Scientists explained that what concerns them is that 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.”

In addition, the corals can recover from bleaching if the water temperature turns cooler.

Source: University of Queensland