The relentless march of mass coral bleaching: a global perspective of changing heat stress

Skirving, W.J., Heron, S.F., Marsh, B.L., Liu, G., De La Cour, J.L., Geiger, E.F., and Eakin, C.M. (2019) The relentless march of mass coral bleaching: a global perspective of changing heat stress. Coral Reefs, 38 (4). pp. 547-557.

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The global coral bleaching event of 2014-2017 resulted from the latest in a series of heat stress events that have increased in intensity. We assessed global- and basin-scale variations in sea surface temperature-based heat stress products for 1985-2017 to provide the context for how heat stress during 2014-2017 compared with the past 3 decades. Previously, undefined "Heat Stress Year" periods (used to describe interannual variation in heat stress) were identified for the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, in which heat stress peaks during or shortly after the boreal and austral summers, respectively. The proportion of reef pixels experiencing bleaching-level heat stress increased through the record, accelerating during the last decade. This increase in accumulated heat stress at a bleaching level is a result of longer stress events rather than an increase in the peak stress intensity. Thresholds of heat stress extent for the three tropical ocean basins were established to designate "global" events, and a Global Bleaching Index was defined that relates heat stress extent to that observed in 1998. Notably, during the 2014-2017 global bleaching event, more than three times as many reefs were exposed to bleaching-level heat stress as in the 1998 global bleaching.

Item ID: 60127
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: Coral bleaching, Heat stress, Coral Reef Watch, DHW, Hotspot, CoralTemp
Copyright Information: Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Funders: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Projects and Grants: NOAA grant NA14NES4320003
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2019 07:52
FoR Codes: 51 PHYSICAL SCIENCES > 5103 Classical physics > 510399 Classical physics not elsewhere classified @ 50%
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3708 Oceanography > 370803 Physical oceanography @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960310 Global Effects of Climate Change and Variability (excl. Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and the South Pacific) @ 100%
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