C. Mark Eakin 1 , * , Jessica A. Morgan 2 , Scott F. Heron 3 , 4 , Tyler B. Smith 5 , Gang Liu 2 , Lorenzo Alvarez-Filip 6 , 7 , Bart Baca 8 , Erich Bartels 9 , Carolina Bastidas 10 , Claude Bouchon 11 , Marilyn Brandt 5 , Andrew W. Bruckner 12 , Lucy Bunkley-Williams 13 , Andrew Cameron 14 , Billy D. Causey 15 , Mark Chiappone 16 , Tyler R. L. Christensen 2 , M. James C Crabbe 17 , Owen Day 18 , Elena de la Guardia 19 , Guillermo Díaz-Pulido 20 , 21 , Daniel DiResta 22 , Diego L. Gil-Agudelo 23 , David S. Gilliam 24 , Robert N. Ginsburg 25 , Shannon Gore 26 , Héctor M. Guzmán 27 , James C. Hendee 28 , Edwin A. Hernández-Delgado 29 , Ellen Husain 30 , Christopher F. G. Jeffrey 31 , Ross J. Jones 32 , Eric Jordán-Dahlgren 33 , Les S. Kaufman 34 , David I. Kline 35 , 27 , Philip A. Kramer 36 , Judith C. Lang 37 , Diego Lirman 25 , Jennie Mallela 38 , 39 , Carrie Manfrino 40 , Jean-Philippe Maréchal 41 , Ken Marks 37 , Jennifer Mihaly 42 , W. Jeff Miller 43 , Erich M. Mueller 44 , Erinn M. Muller 45 , Carlos A. Orozco Toro 46 , Hazel A. Oxenford 47 , Daniel Ponce-Taylor 14 , Norman Quinn 48 , Kim B. Ritchie 9 , Sebastián Rodríguez 10 , Alberto Rodríguez Ramírez 23 , Sandra Romano 5 , Jameal F. Samhouri 49 , Juan A. Sánchez 50 , George P. Schmahl 51 , Burton V. Shank 52 , William J. Skirving 3 , Sascha C. C. Steiner 53 , Estrella Villamizar 54 , Sheila M. Walsh 55 , Cory Walter 9 , Ernesto Weil 13 , Ernest H. Williams 13 , Kimberly Woody Roberson 31 , Yusri Yusuf 56
15 November 2010
The rising temperature of the world's oceans has become a major threat to coral reefs globally as the severity and frequency of mass coral bleaching and mortality events increase. In 2005, high ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean resulted in the most severe bleaching event ever recorded in the basin.
Satellite-based tools provided warnings for coral reef managers and scientists, guiding both the timing and location of researchers' field observations as anomalously warm conditions developed and spread across the greater Caribbean region from June to October 2005. Field surveys of bleaching and mortality exceeded prior efforts in detail and extent, and provided a new standard for documenting the effects of bleaching and for testing nowcast and forecast products. Collaborators from 22 countries undertook the most comprehensive documentation of basin-scale bleaching to date and found that over 80% of corals bleached and over 40% died at many sites. The most severe bleaching coincided with waters nearest a western Atlantic warm pool that was centered off the northern end of the Lesser Antilles.
Thermal stress during the 2005 event exceeded any observed from the Caribbean in the prior 20 years, and regionally-averaged temperatures were the warmest in over 150 years. Comparison of satellite data against field surveys demonstrated a significant predictive relationship between accumulated heat stress (measured using NOAA Coral Reef Watch's Degree Heating Weeks) and bleaching intensity. This severe, widespread bleaching and mortality will undoubtedly have long-term consequences for reef ecosystems and suggests a troubled future for tropical marine ecosystems under a warming climate.