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Sci Rep. 2016 Dec 6;6:38402. doi: 10.1038/srep38402.

Warming Trends and Bleaching Stress of the World's Coral Reefs 1985-2012.

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NOAA Coral Reef Watch, NESDIS Center for Satellite Applications and Research, 5830 University Research Ct., E/RA3, College Park, MD 20740, USA.
Global Science and Technology, Inc., Greenbelt, MD 20770, USA.
Marine Geophysical Laboratory, Physics Department, College of Science, Technology and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.
SymbioSeas and the Marine Applied Research Center, Wilmington NC 28411, USA.
CRIOBE - USR 3278, CNRS - EPHE - UPVD, Laboratoire d'Excellence "CORAIL", 58 Av. Paul Alduy - 66860 Perpignan cedex, France.
NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division, 4301 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, USA.
Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Cswy., Miami, FL 33149, USA.


Coral reefs across the world's oceans are in the midst of the longest bleaching event on record (from 2014 to at least 2016). As many of the world's reefs are remote, there is limited information on how past thermal conditions have influenced reef composition and current stress responses. Using satellite temperature data for 1985-2012, the analysis we present is the first to quantify, for global reef locations, spatial variations in warming trends, thermal stress events and temperature variability at reef-scale (~4 km). Among over 60,000 reef pixels globally, 97% show positive SST trends during the study period with 60% warming significantly. Annual trends exceeded summertime trends at most locations. This indicates that the period of summer-like temperatures has become longer through the record, with a corresponding shortening of the 'winter' reprieve from warm temperatures. The frequency of bleaching-level thermal stress increased three-fold between 1985-91 and 2006-12 - a trend climate model projections suggest will continue. The thermal history data products developed enable needed studies relating thermal history to bleaching resistance and community composition. Such analyses can help identify reefs more resilient to thermal stress.

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