One cold winter doesn't negate more than a century of global warming. We need the political leadership to set the world on a safer path. Ill-informed tweets by government senators won't help.
The Chagos Reef was vibrant before the heat wave.
Ken Marks/Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation
Scientists watched in real time as rising ocean heat transformed the sprawling reef. It was a harbinger for ecosystems everywhere as the planet warms.
As the planet continues to warm, extreme weather events such as heatwaves and heavy rainfall are becoming more frequent, intense and longer, according to global weather data.
A school of convict tang (
Acanthurus triostegus) swim on Kiritimati’s dead reefs after the 2015–16 marine heatwave.
Reef fish vanish during marine heat waves, but may bounce back quickly on reefs that have few other environmental stressors.
Corals glow in neon shades during a 2010 bleaching episode at Palawan, Philippines.
Ryan Goehrung/University of Washington.
While most corals turn ghostly white when they bleach, some turn neon purple. Scientists were baffled – until now.
A common guillemot colony on the Farallon Islands, California.
As well as a stark warning about climate change, the disaster underlines the importance of wildlife monitoring.
A coral reef in the Similan Islands, Thailand.
Fish larvae will swim towards the sounds of a desirable reef, but degraded reefs cannot be rebuilt on sound alone.
Damsea / shutterstock
Oxygen produced by these plants helps animals boost their metabolism to match the heat.
Sunset off the coast of Newfoundland.
Coastal communities are helping scientists understand the impacts of marine heatwaves — and find solutions.
Resilient corals are offering hope for bleached reefs.
How super is a super coral? And what are they super at? Protecting our coral reefs means we need to find out.
AAP Image/Stuart Parker
Marine heatwaves have caused coral bleaching in one of the most isolated ecosystems in the world.
Recent marine heatwaves have devastated crucial coastal habitats, including kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs.
Marine heatwaves, like their land counterparts, are growing hotter and longer. Sea species in southeastern Australia, southeast Asia, northwestern Africa, Europe and eastern Canada are most at risk.
Shark Bay was hit by a brutal marine heatwave in 2011.
W. Bulach/Wikimedia Commons
Everyone knows the Great Barrier Reef is in peril. But a continent away, Western Australia's Shark Bay is also threatened by marine heatwaves that could alter this World Heritage ecosystem forever.
Queensland groper, typical of coral reefs off Queensland at 27°S were found in the Bay of Islands, north of Auckland, at 35°S.
Analysis of last summer's heatwave shows it killed farmed salmon and decimated kelp forests, as well as shifting grape harvests and fish spawning times forward by several weeks.
This summer, coastal seas to the north and east of New Zealand are even warmer than during last year’s marine heat wave.
Marine heatwaves may become the new normal for the Tasman Sea and the ocean around New Zealand, and oceanographers are developing models to better predict their intensity.
Can geoengineering buy the coral reefs more time?
Oregon State University/Flickr
Climate mitigation efforts are unlikely to be enough to save critical ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef. We may need to consider more radical environmental engineering.
Marine heatwaves can kill off species and alter ecosystems.
Marine heatwaves have had little attention until recently, but they're already having large effects.
Staghorn and tabular corals suffered mass die-offs, robbing many individual reefs of their characteristic shapes.
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies/ Mia Hoogenboom
The 2016 bleaching event resulted in 30% mortality on the Great Barrier Reef, with many corals dying of the heat before they bleached and the loss of branching corals creating less complex reef structure.
The southern Great Barrier Reef escaped both of the recent mass bleaching events. But time is running out.
AAP Image/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Tory Chase
Tropical coral reefs can be saved from climate change and other pressures, but the window of opportunity is closing. And reefs are guaranteed to be markedly different in the future.
The 2011 heatwave hit kelp forests hard along a long stretch of WA coast.
A 10-week surge in ocean temperatures off the Western Australian coast has killed off large patches of kelp forest, the "biological engine" of Australia's southern reefs.