“Hot tub” water temperatures in the Florida Keys have caused early coral bleaching and could lead to mass mortality

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coral bleaching
Bleached brain corals. By Cindy Lewis / Keys Marine Lab (2015).

Global temperature records were broken again and again last week and the intense heatwave is also causing massive disruption in the marine waters of Florida.

The Washington Post reports “downright shocking” temperatures in Florida waters including “temperatures of 92 to 96 degrees in the Florida Keys.”

University of Miami’s Brian McNoldy tweeted buoy temperature data with 97 degrees at Johnson Key and 95 degrees at Vaca Key in Florida

In the NOAA / Coral Reef Watch outlook of coral bleaching heat stress that was released last week almost all of the Caribbean fell under a 90% chance (stress level predicted by 90% of ensemble members) of coral bleaching at Alert Level 2 or Alert Level 1 through October.

On the 11 July 2023 episode of Tuesday Cafe, WMNF’s Seán Kinane spoke with coral reef scientist Bill Precht about how hot it is in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Bay and other waters around Florida and how that is impacting marine life, especially corals.

Listen:

Listen to the show here:

“How bad can it get?

“If we don’t see any reprieve in temperatures — we look at 90-degree temperatures over the span of the next three months — we could see levels of coral mortality from bleaching that we’ve never seen before.

“So that means we could lose — potentially lose — 90% of what’s left. If we lose 90% of what’s left, that would be absolutely catastrophic.

“And I don’t want to sound you know, like I’m Chicken Little, but this is this is really scary territory that we’re heading towards.

“What can we do right now today to stop this? Nothing?

“We can’t just go run out and select corals and put them in aquariums right now, because it’s too late.

“This is basically a cumulative effect of global warming and global climate change.

“But what we can do is continue down the path like the Florida Aquarium has been doing and studying these corals. Taking them in the lab, and then doing genetic research and finding out which genotypes of specific corals may be more heat resistant than others. And then use those in the future to restore reefs that have been devastated by natural events.

“When I say natural events — this is a natural event. But basically the fire has been stoked by the burning of fossil fuels.”

-Bill Precht on Tuesday Cafe

Also on Tuesday Cafe for 11 July 2023 we got an update about Warm Mineral Springs and possible development near that archeological site in Sarasota County

Watch the show here:

WMNF’s Tuesday Café

Tuesday Café airs weekly on WMNF beginning at 10:06 a.m. ET.

You can listen live on 88.5 FM in Tampa Bay, on wmnf.org or on the WMNF Community Radio app.

You can watch replays on TBAE Network Channels at 8:00 a.m and 2:00 p.m Tuesdays on Spectrum 636, Frontier 34 and watch.tbae.net. Or on demand.

You can listen anytime on demand on wmnf.org or by subscribing to the Tuesday Café podcast on your favorite podcast platform.

https://open.spotify.com/show/311qfxLFcO8F7ZvnjgZogD – WMNF’s Tuesday Café with Seán Kinane.

https://twitter.com/BMcNoldy/status/1678541200482074626

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