The wandering interests of JamaOwl

Climate and Weather part 4

More from “The Weather of the Future”, By Heidi Cullen, Harper, 2011

“Corals have probably existed on the GBR (Great Barrier Reef) for more than 25 million years.  The corals first formed during the geological era known as the Miocene. It was during the Miocene that India slammed into Asia and created the Himalayas. The Miocene also was a time when the Australian continent was on the move.” (p. 91)

“According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), the earliest record of complete reef structures dates back about 600,000 years.  Research suggests that the current reef structure started growing above this older platform about 20,000 years ago, during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), the peak of the last ice age.” (pp. 91-92)

“By around 13,000 years ago, corals began to move into the hills of what had been Australia’s coastal plain, but was now underwater. … Scientists estimate that the present-day, living reef structure is between 6,000 and 8,000 years old; in other words, it dates from the period during which the sea level is thought to have finally stabilized.” (p. 92)

“… in many places of the world – such as the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Palau – coral bleaching has effectively destroyed more than 50 percent of reefs.  In the Caribbean, the numbers are worse, with between 80 and 90 percent of the reefs destroyed by bleaching, disease, hurricanes, and a number of problems related to coastal development, fishing, and other human activities.” (p. 95)

“During El Niño conditions, ocean temperatures in the Indian Ocean and in the central to eastern Pacific Ocean increase. Along with the warmer ocean waters comes a stable mass of high pressure, exactly the kind of weather pattern that ushers in a prolonged period of hot, sunny days.  What might look like perfect weather is actually a condition for extensive coral bleaching.  El Niño turns the lights on in a very big way.” (p. 96)

“Bleached corals aren’t dead; they’re just starving.  …  If the stressful conditions come to an end soon enough – that is, if the weather changes and temperatures become cooler again – the algae can come back, and the corals can survive the bleaching event.  But corals that do survive a bleaching event come out of it in a weekend state.  … Prolonged bleaching often leads to coral death.”

“This situation is really not so different from a prolonged drought.”(p. 99)

“Roughly 30 percent of the excess carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by human activities since the industrial revolution has been absorbed by the oceans. If not for the ocean uptake, atmospheric CO2 would be on the order of 450 ppm today.” (p. 100)

“Recent modeling studies indicate that if atmospheric CO2 levels hit 600 ppm, it will be very tough to save the corals.  By 650 ppm, it will be impossible to save them.” (p. 104)

“…scientists and conservationists are working hard to protect is an area called the Coral Triangle, which spans eastern Indonesia, parts of Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and the Solomon Islands and contains 53 percent of the world’s corals.  The Coral Triangle covers an area of 2.3 million square miles, about half the size of the United States. It has more than 500 reef-building coral species – 75 percent of all species known to scientists – and more than 3,000 species of reef fish.  It also has the greatest extent of mangrove forest of any region in the world.” (pp. 105-106)

“Right now only 1 percent of the ocean is protected, compared with about 12 percent of the land.” (p. 106)

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