Journal

The Demise of Coral Reefs Worldwide Through Current Bleaching Event Considered Catastrophic

A view of Thetford Reef along the Great Barrier Reef. I made this photograph several years ago. Not sure what the condition of the coral is like now.

A view of Thetford Reef along the Great Barrier Reef. I made this photograph several years ago. Not sure what the condition of the coral is like now.

There have been a spate of articles recently outlining the alarming coral destruction event currently underway including a story from the Guardian with interviews from prominent scientists from NOAA's Reef Watch program.

Evidentially this is the third event in the last 20 years or so and this one is by far the worst. It's estimated that the kill rate could be upwards of 40% of all the coral reefs on earth. Let me say that again: 40 percent dead, extinct, poof! One expert with the non-profit group Reef Watch asserts that the bio-diversity loss could rival the last mass extinction.

 

NOAA forecast map of coral distress. 

NOAA forecast map of coral distress. 

El Niño the Culprit  

El Niño occurs when the waters of the equatorial Pacific warm to a certain threshold temperature that helps foster unusual weather patterns, often very distant from the point of origin. The event that's happening now is the strongest in years and may well last until next summer. It's believed that climate change is accelerating the pace and severity of El Niño. Also the chemistry of the oceans is dynamically changing and becoming more acidic.

All of these favors are combining to drive this coral bleaching destruction. 

Hawaii Especially Hit Hard

With the previous two bleaching events Hawaii was largely spared from the most damaging coral effects. But not this time. According to NOAA scientists this event actually started in Hawaii in 2014 and has damaged even pristine virtually untouched reefs of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Here's a link to more info from NOAA.

 

A View of Kaluapapa, Molokai

The sea cliffs of Molokai rise dramatically over the Kalaupapa Peninsula. 

The sea cliffs of Molokai rise dramatically over the Kalaupapa Peninsula. 

 

Whenever I visit the northern side of many of the islands it is common to see this kind of atmospheric effect. The trade winds bring in the nebulous clean clouds that float above the blue pacific. The air is super crisp as one realizes that there hasn't been one molecule of human induced interference for thousands of miles. It is a feeling of absolute isolation coupled with incredible beauty.

The sea cliffs on the right are some of the highest in the world, measuring over 2000 feet.

Where's the Best Place to See a Sunrise in Hawaii?

The view from the top of Haleakala, Maui

The view from the top of Haleakala, Maui

Sunrises are beginnings, and I chose this theme to re-introduce my photography in a new format and website. 

I think the best spot to witness the sunrise is from the top of Haleakala Volcano on the island of Maui. The view from this altitude is stunning. On a typical morning the trade winds from the east have ushered in the low lying clouds that hug the coastline some 10,000 feet below. When the sun begins to pierce through the mist it's like an anthem of incredible silence and solitude. The feeling I describe is of a power that borders on cosmic. I haven't quite felt or seen anything like this elsewhere in Hawaii, much less the world (except perhaps on the other side of the day at sunset from the top of Mauna Kea, more on that later). 

If you're ever on Maui and want to see this yourself you probably want to wake up about three in the morning (if you're staying in Wailea-Kihei, earlier if you're in West Maui). The drive up to the top of Haleakala is all paved but it's very windy/curvy so it takes some time). It's best to arrive on top before the first hint of light appears on the horizon if you want to experience the full spectrum of the sunrise-it is really worth it.