Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Temperatures in the waters around the Great Barrier Reef Wednesday were higher than usual.

Temperatures in the waters around the Great Barrier Reef Wednesday were higher than usual. (Image: NOAA Coral Reef Watch)

'Devastating': Great Barrier Reef in Danger of Catastrophic Bleaching as Temperatures in Australia Remain High

"It's a sobering reality we're in."

Eoin Higgins

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is in danger of a catastrophic bleaching event that scientists warn could have dire consequences on the survival of one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

"It's a sobering reality we're in," Georgia Institute of Technology coral reef scientist Kim Cobb told Vice.

Temperatures in the waters surrounding the reef have been high in recent weeks, part of the months-long heatwave that brought devastating fires to Australia that ringed the country in December, forcing thousands from their homes and killing millions of animals. The fires were followed by massive flooding in February.

As Maddie Stone reported for Vice, the heat has led to a dangerous situation for the survival of the reef:

For the past few weeks, the Great Barrier Reef has been running a fever, with temperatures along the 1,400 mile-long ecosystem hovering a degree Celsius or more above normal. At these temperatures, corals become stressed and start to bleach, jettisoning the colorful algae that provide them their food and turning a bloodless white. If the water remains warm for too long, the algae won't return, and the corals will starve.

Experts worry the Great Barrier Reef is now uncomfortably close to that tipping point.

NOAA's Coral Reef Watch Program expects widespread bleaching, the organization said, from the north to the south of the reef. 

"You're looking at a bigger, more widespread event," program director Mark Eakin told Vice

Imaging from the organization shared by James Cook University Coral Reef Studies director Professor Terry Hughes on Twitter showed the increase in temperature. 

"More widespread than 2016 or 2017, but hopefully not quite as intense," said Hughes. "I'm particularly concerned about the south, which has not been exposed to widespread bleaching before."

As Common Dreams reported in February, scientists observing the rising sea temperatures around the reef described the situation then as on "a knife edge."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Scientists to BlackRock Vice Chairman: New Fossil Fuel Development 'Incompatible' With 1.5°C

"The only responsible course of action is to do everything in our power to stop fossil fuel expansion and further emissions."

Jessica Corbett ·


Goldman Prize Awarded to Activists Who Showed Nature's 'Amazing Capability to Regenerate'

"While the many challenges before us can feel daunting, and at times make us lose faith, these seven leaders give us a reason for hope and remind us what can be accomplished in the face of adversity."

Julia Conley ·


Faith Leaders Call for Federal Election Monitors in Georgia to Protect Black Voters

"It is imperative that our election this November is monitored to preserve ballot integrity and ensure ballot security."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Inaction Is Bought': Here Are the Receipts on NRA's Purchase of GOP

"The issue is money in politics," said Nina Turner after the nation's latest mass killing of students and teachers. Right-wing lawmakers are "allowing children to die because of the gun lobby."

Kenny Stancil ·


'This Is on You!' Beto Interrupts Abbott Press Conference on Texas Massacre

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke accused Texas' GOP leaders of "doing nothing and offering us nothing" in the wake of the massacre at Robb Elementary School.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo