Spatial and temporal patterns of mass bleaching of corals in the Anthropocene

Terry P. Hughes, Kristen D. Anderson, Sean R. Connolly, Scott F. Heron, James T. Kerry, Janice M. Lough, Andrew H. Baird, Julia K. Baum, Michael L. Berumen, Tom C. Bridge, Danielle C. Claar, C. Mark Eakin, James P. Gilmour, Nicholas A. J. Graham, Hugo B. Harrison, Jean-Paul A. Hobbs, Andrew S. Hoey, Mia Hoogenboom, Ryan J. Lowe, Malcolm T. McCullochJohn M. Pandolfi, Morgan Pratchett, Verena Schoepf, Gergely Torda, Shaun K. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1269 Scopus citations


Tropical reef systems are transitioning to a new era in which the interval between recurrent bouts of coral bleaching is too short for a full recovery of mature assemblages. We analyzed bleaching records at 100 globally distributed reef locations from 1980 to 2016. The median return time between pairs of severe bleaching events has diminished steadily since 1980 and is now only 6 years. As global warming has progressed, tropical sea surface temperatures are warmer now during current La Nina conditions than they were during El Nino events three decades ago. Consequently, as we transition to the Anthropocene, coral bleaching is occurring more frequently in all El Nino-Southern Oscillation phases, increasing the likelihood of annual bleaching in the coming decades.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-83
Number of pages4
Issue number6371
StatePublished - Jan 4 2018

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: Major funding for this research was provided by the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence Program (CE140100020). The contents of this manuscript are solely the opinions of the authors and do not constitute a statement of policy, decision, or position on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the U.S. government. Data reported in this paper are tabulated in the supplementary materials.


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