The earth's thermostat just broke! July 2023 was the hottest month on record in the last 120,000 years, based on modern measurents plus isotope data in ice cores. Florida experienced in August the hottest ocean temperature ever recorded- over 101F (38C), which is the recommended temperature for a hot tub! Most of the reefs and much of the coral restoration work there have now died- at one reef the hot water came so fast that the corals did not even have time to bleach- the tissues just cooked off the skeletons! There is no longer any doubt: we must act immediately to save heat-adapted corals now, before this intense heat wave arrives and it is too late. This is like a firestorm, and sheltering in place is not an option: coral must be moved to cooler waters or they will perish.
Florida and much of the Caribbean are now facing the sort of mass die-off of coral reefs that Kiribati faced in 2014-16 and which continued in the Gilbert island chain until 2019. The coral reefs have not recovered since. Many species of corals went extinct locally, and the reef fish in many areas have now become too toxic to eat due to toxic (ciguatera) microalgae that grow on dead corals. The coral reef community and UN did not seem to notice what happened in 2014-19, as Kiribati is so remote, but now that Florida's reefs have died, global action will hopefully accelerate.
The hot water is coming our way, and NOAA predicts that it will hit Kiribati and even pristine Tuvalu by November. Tuvalu has the least impacted coral reefs remaining in the entire Pacific. Today I will be trying to mobilize action in Tuvalu, and will arrange to fly there as soon as I can manage to help our local partner organization, Fuligafou, a youth based NGO dedicated to the environment. We must mobilize before the heat wave hits them in November. The strategy will be to move coral samples of as many of the hot pocket corals as possible from the Funafala lagoon in Funafuti Atoll's south, the largest hot pocket in the nation.
I will fly to Kiribati in September and already have my tickets, to work with the government and our local partner organization to help them begin the process of finding and sampling any remaining corals, so they can start their first gene bank nursery.
Fiji may be facing a similar fate in January through April, which are our most stressful summer months, as climate change has suddenly fast-forwarded by about two decades. The only way the corals will survive in this situation is for cyclones to cool the waters, and that is not so good for the coastal communities.
Scientists are still trying to figure out what has caused ocean heat to spike and to go off-scale. Today was the hottest day for the ocean on record- and it keeps climbing.
We are launching Reefs of Hope, a program to enable communities and resorts to intervene beforehand to save coral species from going locally extinct. The strategies are in the film, link below. How might you become involved? We credit our donors as already being part of the planetary stewards team. Please share the gift of activism by forwarding our report with links to your social network friends.
The scary data taken by satellite is in the graph below. Mean ocean temperature is now 5 standard deviations above normal! Ocean warming seems to be driving atmospheric warming, indicating a basic change in circulation and the global heat budget. Antarctic deep bottom water, which is super dense, salty and cold (-2C), forms at the surface as the sea ice freezes, sinking and spreading out in the abyss, and it is slowing, indicating that this Southern Ocean Overturning Circulation may be in danger of collapsing? Please take the time to view the updated daily global ocean temperature data and sea ice here https://climatereanalyzer.org/clim/sst_daily/ It is shocking! Please also go to our Corals for Conservation facebook page and repost some of the information you will find there, help us spread the word!
This has climate scientists shaking in their boots. It is unprecedented and seems to be not only holding, but worsening. This can NOT be explained due to El Nino. A tipping point of some sort has been reached. I am holding my breath and waiting to see, but I am also gearing up for action to try to prevent massive wipe-outs of coral species over the coming years. The communities have the most to lose of any, and they need to be put in the forefront. The challenge before us now is to rescue as many of the bleaching resistant corals as possible from what may soon become fatal temperatures. We can then build a youth-focused program to build resilience to climate change within locally managed marine areas, with the hope that the root causes of climate change will eventually be dealt with. All we can do is to buy time for coral reefs until this is accomplished.
May God, Mother Earth, and the Universe give us the unified vision, manpower, and financial resources required.
Austin and all who love the reef