Great Barrier Reef: Record Heat Wave May Cause Another Coral Bleaching Episode | Environment

A record heat wave in North Queensland will further increase above-average sea temperatures, increasing the risk of another coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef next year, scientists said.

Dozens of record temperatures in November were recorded in the region, most along the reef shoreline this week.

The most notable was Cairns, where the following days reached temperatures of 42.6 ° C and 40.9 ° C. The maximum temperature recorded on Tuesday broke the record for November, which had been at 5.4 ° C since 1900. C.

Extreme weather has fueled more than 130 bush fires, which Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Twitter "was not the kind of fire we saw before in Queensland."

"The heatwave and fire records are unprecedented," Palaszczuk said.

A dust storm, caused by strong westerly winds, has blanketed the southern interior regions of the state. In the north, thousands of native flying foxes died due to high temperatures.

Terry Hughes, a Reef scientist at the James Cook University Coral Center of Excellence, said the summer heat wave was "terrifying" and averted the risk of coral death on the Great Barrier Reef. coral at the beginning of next year.

Terry Hughes

It's terrifying. A heat wave from early summer breaks all records, increasing the chances of another coral mortality episode on the continent. #greatBarrierReef next february / march.

November 26, 2018

The reef suffered several heat waves at sea, in early 2016 and 2017, which killed corals and severely damaged the northern and central parts.

Hughes said bleaching forecasts were "on the rise" but that scientists would not have a clear picture before the end of January.

The coral ecologist, Dr. Neal Cantin, of the Australian Institute of Ocean Sciences, said the ocean temperatures remained lower than those recorded at the same time in 2015 and 2016 but warmer than the historical average.

Cantin said the current heat wave would "add heat and warm up the ocean. This certainly adds warmth to the system. We have witnessed a record high this week, with record temperatures, which we expect to see in the future with climate change and the warming of the situation.

"We are in the monitoring phase. The potential is certainly there and the way in which local weather conditions materialize in January and February will really determine whether we are going to have a large-scale whitening or not.

"There are signs that we can avoid [bleaching] this summer. At this point, it is less likely to be as bad as 2016, but we will be ready to react. [if bleaching occurs]. "

The reality of climate change sinks

"The danger that concerns me the most is the heat wave," said Andrew Gissing, risk management expert at Risk Frontiers.

"Australia needs to be better prepared for heat waves. We are already anticipating that climate change will worsen. "

Gissing told Guardian Australia that people often react to extreme weather and natural disasters based on their previous experiences. But he said governments, businesses and individuals were often unprepared for the increasing gravity and frequency of such events.

"We worked a lot in Lismore after Hurricane Debbie. So many people have taken refuge at home because that's what they always did when there was flooding. They just did not realize that this flood was much bigger

"People really need to be listening to what's really happening … how the nature of climate change is changing."

Gissing said companies need to start investing in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

"It's going to be very difficult to mitigate a lot of [predicted climate] adaptation for the future will therefore be very important. Especially when you superimpose climate change on a growing population.

"The [number of people living on the Queensland coast] should double by 2030. Due to climate change, we are considering increased exposure [to disaster risks] there too."

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