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Rapid Recent Warming of Coral Reefs in the Florida Keys
  • Published Date:

    2015

  • Source:
    Scientific Reports, 5, 16762.
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    Coral reef decline in the Florida Keys has been well-publicized, controversial, and polarizing owing to debate over the causative agent being climate change versus overfishing. The recurrence of mass bleaching in 2014, the sixth event since 1987, prompted a reanalysis of temperature data. The summer and winter of 2014 were the warmest on record. The oldest known in-situ temperature record of any coral reef is from Hens and Chickens Reef (H&C) in the Florida Keys, which showed significant warming from 1975-2014. The average number of days >= 31.5 and 32 degrees C per year increased 2670% and 2560%, respectively, from the mid-1990 s to present relative to the previous 20 years. In every year after 1992 and 1994, maximum daily average temperatures exceeded 30.5 and 31 degrees C, respectively. From 1975-1994, temperatures were <31 degrees C in 61% of years, and in 44% of the years prior to 1992 temperatures were <30.5 degrees C. The measured rate of warming predicts the start of annual bleaching between 2020 and 2034, sooner than expected from climate models and satellite-based sea temperatures. These data show that thermal stress is increasing and occurring on a nearannual basis on Florida Keys reefs due to ocean warming from climate change.
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