Ocean temperatures in the Indo-Pacific are well above normal, and this heating is causing stress and mortality to the most diverse area of coral reefs on the planet. The “Coral Triangle,” an area from the Philippines to Papua New Guinea to Indonesia includes hundreds of patch and barrier reefs. Data collected by NOAA satellites that measure ocean heating and the impact on corals shows these extremely warm ocean temperatures, sustained over many weeks, that are creating conditions that cause bleaching in coral animals, potentially leading to their mortality. As La Niña intensifies in the Pacific, causing Western Pacific temperatures to warm, the likelihood that this heating stress will continue is very high.
The Associated Press is quoting conservationists in the region as saying that massive coral bleaching is now occurring:
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Coral that survived the 2004 tsunami is now dying at one of the fastest rates ever recorded because of a dramatic rise in water temperatures off northwestern Indonesia, conservationists said, warning Wednesday that the threat extends to other reefs across Asia.
The Wildlife Conservation Society deployed marine biologists to Aceh province, on the tip of Sumatra island, in May when surface waters in the Andaman Sea peaked at 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius) — a 7 degree Fahrenheit (4 degree Celsius) rise over long-term averages.
Clive Wilkinson, a coordinator at the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network in Australia, is quoted in the article:
“We are in a major heating period, it’s breaking all records, and there are very furious worries now about the Philippines and eventually Taiwan and probably southern Japan. . . This is really quite serious.”