By Richard Schiffman
The bad news for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef just keeps on getting worse.
Last month, scientists from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, reported that the northern third of the reef was severely bleached in 2016. Well over half the corals there were lost in that event.
Today, the same team announced that the central portion of the reef, a popular tourist area, is now suffering a similar fate. Corals bleach – and can die – when stresses such as abnormal heat make them expel their symbiotic algae.
In 2016, the bleaching was caused by El Niño, a periodic global climate event that heats up a vast band of the ocean’s surface in the equatorial Pacific.
But this year’s bleaching is occurring during a so-called “normal” year without such an event.
“The water is just too damn hot,” says Terry Hughes, the leader of the survey, who fears that climate change is creating a new norm that corals are unable to endure.
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