Opposing forces of aerosol cooling and El Niño drive coral bleaching on Caribbean reefs

J.A. Gill, A.R. Watkinson, J.P. McWilliams, I.M. Cote

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14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Bleaching of corals as a result of elevated sea surface temperatures (SST) is rapidly becoming a primary source of stress for reefs globally; the scale and extent of this threat will depend on how the drivers of SST interact to influence bleaching patterns. We demonstrate how the opposing forces of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and levels of atmospheric aerosols drive regional-scale patterns of coral bleaching across the Caribbean. When aerosol levels are low, bleaching is largely determined by El Niño strength, but high aerosol levels mitigate the effects of a severe El Niño. High aerosol levels, resulting principally from recent volcanic activity, have thus protected Caribbean reefs from more frequent widespread bleaching events but cannot be relied on to provide similar protection in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18870-18873
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume103
Issue number49
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2006

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