Do clouds save the Great Barrier Reef? Satellite imagery elucidates the cloud-SST relationship at the local scale

Leahy, Susannah M., Kingsford, Michael J., and Steinberg, Craig R. (2013) Do clouds save the Great Barrier Reef? Satellite imagery elucidates the cloud-SST relationship at the local scale. PLoS ONE, 8 (7). e70400. pp. 1-12.

[img]
Preview
PDF (Published Version) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (1MB)
View at Publisher Website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0...
 
19
87


Abstract

Evidence of global climate change and rising sea surface temperatures (SSTs) is now well documented in the scientific literature. With corals already living close to their thermal maxima, increases in SSTs are of great concern for the survival of coral reefs. Cloud feedback processes may have the potential to constrain SSTs, serving to enforce an "ocean thermostat" and promoting the survival of coral reefs. In this study, it was hypothesized that cloud cover can affect summer SSTs in the tropics. Detailed direct and lagged relationships between cloud cover and SST across the central Great Barrier Reef (GBR) shelf were investigated using data from satellite imagery and in situ temperature and light loggers during two relatively hot summers (2005 and 2006) and two relatively cool summers (2007 and 2008). Across all study summers and shelf positions, SSTs exhibited distinct drops during periods of high cloud cover, and conversely, SST increases during periods of low cloud cover, with a three-day temporal lag between a change in cloud cover and a subsequent change in SST. Cloud cover alone was responsible for up to 32.1% of the variation in SSTs three days later. The relationship was strongest in both El Niño (2005) and La Niña (2008) study summers and at the inner-shelf position in those summers. SST effects on subsequent cloud cover were weaker and more variable among study summers, with rising SSTs explaining up to 21.6% of the increase in cloud cover three days later. This work quantifies the often observed cloud cooling effect on coral reefs. It highlights the importance of incorporating local-scale processes into bleaching forecasting models, and encourages the use of remote sensing imagery to value-add to coral bleaching field studies and to more accurately predict risks to coral reefs.

Item ID: 30253
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Additional Information:

© 2013 Leahy et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Australian Government National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, Super Science Initiative, Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Queensland State Government
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2013 00:55
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
Downloads: Total: 87
Last 12 Months: 16
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page