1 APRIL 1998. PANAMA: CORAL (BLEACHING)

"On a recent research cruise in Panama, a group of scientists from the University of Miami's Marine Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observed coral bleaching in the waters off the Pacific coast of Panama. El Nino along the Panama coast. In Panama's Gulf of Chiriqui region, bleaching was seen in almost all species of corals present. At six sites, including reefs at Uva Island and the Secas Islands that have been part of long term studies, 50% to almost 90% of corals had experienced at least partial bleaching. Most species were partially bleached with most bleaching on the upper surfaces of colonies. This was the second wave of bleaching, following earlier bleaching seen in the Fall of 1997. However, bleaching is not as severe as it was observed in 1983. Sea surface temperatures in the area are currently 29 to 31 degrees C, nearly a degree and a half warmer than normal. Data from temperature monitors on the reefs indicate that elevated temperatures have existed periodically since mid-summer 1997. These agree with observations from NOAA satellite and blended sea surface temperature data. Corals from this area begin to bleach when temperatures are maintained above 29 degrees C. While we suspect that the bleaching extends north into areas off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, we know of no one that has made observations to test this. Images of weekly and monthly sea surface temperatures in the area from Costa Rica to the Galapagos can be found at: http://www.ogp.noaa.gov/misc/coral/oisst/" C. Mark Eakin <eakin@ogp.noaa.gov VIA coral-list@coral.aoml.noaa.gov

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