Few accessible places represent Earth’s natural beauty quite like our beaches, but looks can be deceiving if there is a bacterial outbreak or contamination from offshore activities. Not being able to see these contaminants puts families at risk of exposure if they aren’t properly warned. The BEACHES project (Beach Exposure And Child Health Study), a collaboration between the University of Miami’s College of Engineering and the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies and AOML, along with the Universities of Arkansas and Texas, aims to pair child behavioral science with microbiology to address exposure risk of beachgoers.
NOAA contributed to a study published today in the journal Nature that compares the upward growth rates of coral reefs with predicted rates of sea-level rise and found many reefs would be submerged in water so deep it will hamper their growth and survival. The study was done by an international team of scientists led by the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.
A new analysis of heat wave patterns appearing in Nature Climate Change focuses on four regions of the United States where human-caused climate change will ultimately overtake natural variability as the main driver of heat waves. Climate change will drive more frequent and extreme summer heat waves in the Western United States by late 2020’s, the Great Lakes region by mid 2030’s, and in the northern and southern Plains by 2050’s and 2070’s, respectively.
“These are the years that climate change outweighs natural variability as the cause of heat waves in these regions,” said Hosmay Lopez, a meteorologist at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory and the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies and lead author of the study. “Without human influence, half of the extreme heat waves projected to occur in the future wouldn’t happen.”
Coral researchers at AOML unveiled a new state of the art experimental laboratory this spring at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel campus. The new “Experimental Reef Laboratory” will allow NOAA scientists and colleagues to study the molecular mechanisms of coral resiliency. Modeling studies indicate that thermal stress and ocean acidification will worsen in the coming decades. Scientists designed the Experimental Reef Laboratory to study the combined effect of these two threats, and determine if some corals are able to persist in a changing environment.
Coral scientists recently traveled to the Galapagos Islands to document coral reef health following the 2016-17 El Niño Southern Oscillation event (ENSO), which bathed the region in abnormally warm waters. Historically, these events have triggered coral bleaching and large-scale mortality, as seen in response to ENSO events of 1982-83 and 1997-98. Interestingly, these same reefs exhibited minimal bleaching in response to this most recent event. Scientists are determining whether this response is due to differing levels of heat stress, or an increased tolerance to warm water in the remnant coral communities.
For the third time in recorded history, a massive coral bleaching event is unfolding throughout the world’s oceans, stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean. Above average sea surface temperatures exacerbated by a strong El Niño could result in the planet losing up to 4,500 square miles of coral this year alone, according to NOAA. The global event is predicted to continue to impact reefs into the spring of 2016.
The Marine and Estuarine Goal Setting for South Florida (MARES) project, led by NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Miami, continues to increase awareness of and appreciation for the value of coastal marine ecosystems, and their impacts upon human society. From 2009 through 2013, NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science funded MARES with the goal of creating a consensus-based process for managing South Florida’s coastal marine environments. MARES is unique in that it was among the first major efforts to include human benefits in a systematic framework to enable integrated ecosystem based management. The MARES approach embodies NOAA’s effort to serve as the Nation’s environmental intelligence agency by providing actionable information from science-based models to support environmentally-sensitive decisions made every day by individuals, communities, and governments.