Corals of Australia's Great Barrier Reef
Click on image for full size
Some Coral Reefs May Not Be in Hot Water
News story originally written on February 7, 2008
Coral animals need to live in seawater that’s warm, but not too warm. As climate changes causes seawater to warm, some corals become less healthy.
Now scientists have found that areas of the ocean might have ways to keep from warming too much. If so, then some of the world's largest coral reefs might be protected from climate change.
Scientist Joan Kleypas led a team to study an area of the Pacific Ocean northeast of Australia. They looked at records of ocean temperature and coral health. They also used a climate model to study how ocean temperatures can change.
They found that while other areas of the oceans have warmed in the past few decades, the temperature has not changed much in this area of the Pacific Ocean. And the coral reefs there have stayed pretty healthy.
Some scientists think that oceans might have ways to stop the water from warming beyond a certain point. What could keep the water from warming? If water warms a little, more water will evaporate. Evaporation takes heat out of the water. It also can cause more clouds to shade the water and can cause more wind. Both shade and wind can cool the surface. In some areas, warmer water changes ocean currents that mix in cooler water.
Corals in other places may not be so lucky. Corals that live in slightly cooler water will have much more temperature change as the water warms towards the limit. In addition to warming seawater, coral reefs face many other threats - carbon dioxide, diseases, overfishing, and pollution to name a few.
"Warming waters are just one part of the picture, but they are an important part," says Joan Kleypas.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes fun classroom activities
for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!
You might also be interested in:
How do you know to pack your bathing suit and sunhat for a trip to a tropical island or pack warm sweaters and coats for a trip to Alaska? If you know a little about regional climates, then you know what...more
Earth’s climate is getting warmer. During the past 100 years Earth’s average temperature rose about 0.6° Celsius (1.0° F). Things that people are doing like burning fossil fuels, changing the way land...more
Wind is moving air. Warm air rises, and cool air comes in to take its place. This movement creates the winds around the globe. Winds move at different speeds and have different names based on their speed....more
The water at the ocean surface is moved by powerful wind. The wind is able to move the top 400 meters of the ocean. This moving water is called surface ocean currents. Surface ocean currents form large...more
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a kind of gas. There isn't that much carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere, but it is still very important. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. That means it helps trap heat coming...more
Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. Adam Kent, a geologist at Oregon State University, says this...more
The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core. The mantle is made up of many different reservoirs that have different chemical compositions. Scientists...more