We knew coral bleaching was a serious issue in the Great Barrier Reef, but the scope of just how widespread it was has been unclear — until now.
Extensive aerial surveys and dives have revealed that 93 percent of the world’s largest reef has been devastated by coral bleaching. The culprit has been record-warm water driven by El Niño and climate change that has cooked the life out of corals.
The unprecedented destruction brought leading reef scientist Terry Hughes, who runs the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, to tears.
“We’ve never seen anything like this scale of bleaching before. In the northern Great Barrier Reef, it’s like 10 cyclones have come ashore all at once,” Hughes said in a press release.
The Center conducted aerial surveys and dives at 911 sites spanning the full 1,430-mile length of the reef. They show the hardest hit areas are in the northern part of the reefs, which have also endured some of the hottest water temperatures for prolonged periods.