Scope of Great Barrier Reef's Coral Bleaching Alarms Scientists - NBC 6 South Florida
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Scope of Great Barrier Reef's Coral Bleaching Alarms Scientists

If corals remain in too-warm water they turn white — a process known as bleaching — and can potentially die

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    Aerial views of the Great Barrier Reef are seen from above on Aug. 7, 2009, in Cairns, Australia.

    The clear blue-green waters around the Great Barrier Reef are changing faster than previously thought, according to a new study in the journal Nature, worrying scientists who say the survival of the Great Barrier Reef and other ecosystems like it is crucial for the planet, NBC News reported.

    At the Great Barrier Reef — considered one of the Earth's largest living structures at 1,400 miles long — about half of the coral died in 2016 and 2017 because of record extreme heat, a result of climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers found.

    Australia's weather bureau said 2017 was the country's third-hottest year on record, and the scorching temperatures came despite the lack of an El Niño system that normally brings warmer weather.

    Historically, coral deaths were at a smaller 5 percent to 10 percent. Other research has estimated that 90 percent of the world's corals could be dead as soon as 2050. Scientists are concerned that the colonies of coral that make up the Great Barrier Reef have been damaged to a point where they won't bounce back. If corals remain in too-warm water they turn white — a process known as bleaching — and can potentially die.

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    (Published Thursday, April 5, 2018)