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NOAA Satellites Monitor Coral Reef Health Worldwide

NOAA Coral Reef Virtual Station network

A Coral Reef Virtual Station animation (Quicktime video). Sign up for automated email alerts to monitor the health of coral reef systems throughout the world.

NOAA's Coral Reef Watch bleaching monitoring network expanded from 24 to 190 'virtual stations' at the end of September.

Nearly 200 sites around the world are now continually monitored from space to notify coral reef managers, scientists, and other interested parties when ocean conditions are ripe for coral bleaching.

The network provides about two weeks' warning before coral bleaching occurs by monitoring sea surface temperatures from NOAA's environmental satellites.

Coral bleaching results from rising ocean temperature associated with climate change. As the corals heat up, they expel the algae that live in their tissues and expose the white skeleton underneath. While corals often recover from mild bleaching, individual coral polyps or whole colonies may die if the bleaching is severe or prolonged.

Coral reefs are home to millions of species of plants and fish that people depend on for food and tourism. They also serve as barriers in many areas to protect lives and properties from storms, waves, and the forces of erosion.

Coral reef plants and animals are also important sources of new medicines being developed to treat illnesses ranging from cancer to heart disease.

The bleaching monitoring network coverage area now includes reefs in the Florida Keys, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Indian Ocean, Coral Triangle, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, and the Pacific Ocean.

The NOAA Coral Reef Watch monitoring network is made possible, in part, through the GEF-World Bank Coral Reef Targeted Research Program. Additional support comes from NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program.