Good News & Bad News in Hawaii
No, this not about the volcano, but it is about the environment. The bad news, of course, is that the coral reefs are being destroyed all over the world by, among other things, a process called “bleaching.” According to the National Ocean Service, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce:
When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white…. When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality. [A scientists way of describing “likely to die”]
In 2005, the U.S. lost half of its coral reefs in the Caribbean in one year due to a massive bleaching event. The warm waters centered around the northern Antilles near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico expanded southward. Comparison of satellite data from the previous 20 years confirmed that thermal stress from the 2005 event was greater than the previous 20 years combined.
Not all bleaching events are due to warm water.
In January 2010, cold water temperatures in the Florida Keys caused a coral bleaching event that resulted in some coral death. Water temperatures dropped 12.06 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the typical temperatures observed at this time of year. Researchers will evaluate if this cold-stress event will make corals more susceptible to disease in the same way that warmer waters impact corals. [That was 8 years ago – no update]
The NOS site also says: “If the stress-caused bleaching is not severe, coral have been known to recover. If the algae loss is prolonged and the stress continues, coral eventually dies.”
Notwithstanding the optimistic views of NOS, the worldwide losses of coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, is progressing rapidly. Based on the best available climate change science, to depend on reversal of ocean water temperatures to save the corals is a fool’s errand. There are, however, other measures that can be taken and Hawaii has done so.
As reported in TravelMarketReport.com on July 5, https://bit.ly/2KYM2L6, Hawaii has banned, effective January 1, 2021, the use of two chemicals that contribute to coral bleaching. These obscure chemicals are used in many commercial sunscreens which, of course, are sold in huge quantities in Hawaii. One study found that, on average, more than 400 pounds of sunscreen a day fell on the reef at Hanauma Bay, an area on Oahu that attracts 2,600 snorklers a day. [Hanauma Bay shown in photo at top of post]
Not surprisingly, the legislation was opposed by the makers of commercial sunscreen. https://nyti.ms/2rdFsbR We can only hope that Hawaii’s model of aggressively protecting its reefs will spread rapidly to other states and countries. The oceans are getting warmer, notwithstanding the denials of the Republican science-deniers, and all the reefs are at risk.
While on the subject of Hawaii, I cannot resist the temptation to show a few of my favorite photos from some of the islands.These are typical of what you can see there.