The worst coral bleaching ever set to happen in 20 years is expected to be recorded in the Pacific soon, state the researchers.
Now, more than 16 years later, global warming appears to be doing what it used to require a super El Nino to do, push ocean temperatures so high across the Pacific Ocean that it sets off a major coral bleaching event, the Mashable reported.
In 1998, one of the most powerful El Nino events on record sent Pacific Ocean temperatures soaring to such heights that almost 20 percent of the world's coral reefs experienced significant bleaching. Some of the reefs have never fully recovered from that episode.
This year was virtually guaranteed to set the record for the warmest year since instrumental records began in 1880, largely due to record high global ocean temperatures.
2014 has been anything but average for ocean temperatures, particularly across the Pacific, where the worst coral bleaching events have been seen so far. Global average ocean temperatures were the warmest of any month on record in September.
Temperatures were so warm during that month that it broke the all-time record for the highest departure from average for any month since 1880, at 1.19 degrees Fahrenheit above average. August and June also set records for the warmest ocean temperatures on record, and the year is expected to set a similar milestone.
The Coral Reef Watch product was based on satellite-derived sea surface temperatures as well as scientific research about the susceptibility of different corals to thermal stress.
So far in 2014, rare and significant coral bleaching has taken place in Hawaii's Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which was an area of about 140,000 square miles of protected oceans.
Corals typically recover from bleaching, asking zooxanthellae to move back in with them. But they need time to heal in the wake of these stressful episodes, and with waters warming and bleaching events more frequent that's becoming increasingly difficult.