The hot water temperatures that drove the bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef this year was made 175 times more likely by human-caused climate change, and could be normal in 18 years, according to preliminary findings by leading climate and coral reef scientists.
They found the record warm temperatures in the Coral Sea were driven by a combination of 1C of warming since 1900 caused by greenhouse gas emissions, and about a 0.5C jump in temperature driven by natural variability.
The increase of bleaching events is worrying news, since reefs can only recover as long as they are not being repeatedly affected by bleaching or other harms.
Wenju Cai, a world-leading climate scientist at the CSIRO, said: “The result is very significant if it turns out to be robust. We never thought the Great Barrier Reef is going to die completely by the 2030s. If that’s true it’s a lot faster than we thought.”