Forget the Godzilla El Niño, 2015 is about to be remembered for a full blown Chuck Niño. Those Californians who prayed to the weathers gods for this El Niño are about to be real sorry. The NOAA heat map of temperature anomalies across the Pacific and Atlantic are a deep deep red, and that is a terrible sign for our oceans. The last time the Pacific looked like this, we lost over 15% of coral cover globally.
If this sounds terrifying, it's because it is. This is more frightening than having to watch every Dane Cook stand up routine in a row. In the map above you can see Hawaii is bathing in the disturbing blob of maroon"Alert Level 2" waters, which signifies that coral mortality is likely, and it's ONLY OCTOBER. NOAA expects these temperatures to last at least another 4 months. Corals are tough though, they can rebound from minor bleaching events by change symbiont types to more heat tolerant ones and they can even acclimatize to higher temperatures. And some really tough corals have even evolved to handle increased bleaching stress like the ones I studied in American Samoa. But the vast majority of corals cannot withstand the repeated roundhouse kicks to the face of Chuck Niño's fiery water temperatures we are seeing across the Pacific and Atlantic.
Recently NOAA and other scientists reported bleaching from Keys to 40 miles north of Miami at alarmingly high rates. Some reefs have even lost 50% coral cover. 2015 is shaping up to be remembered as one of the worst bleaching events in recorded history.
Chuck Niño 2015 is giving us a taste of full blown climate change. Let's hope he grants corals some mercy.