Climate change is putting one of the wonders of the world in a vice. For an unprecedented second year in a row, Great Barrier Reef coral have been decimated by a wave of warm water.
Last year’s mass bleaching was fueled in part by a powerful El Niño, but would have been nearly impossible without climate change bumping up background temperatures. Research showed that climate change made warm waters in the Coral Sea up to 175 times more likely.
While no similar attribution has been done for this year’s mass bleaching, 2017’s heat is occurring in the absence of El Niño. And there’s one main culprit scientists are pointing to.
“The bleaching is caused by record-breaking temperatures driven by global warming,” said Terry Hughes, a director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
The northern half of the reef was particularly hard hit in both 2016 and 2017. Bleaching has spread across 900 miles of the reef this time around. And while the intense heat doesn’t spell the demise of all coral, it does make it very hard for any coral that survived to rebuild the reefs.
“It takes at least a