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Opposing Forces of Aerosol Cooling and El Niño Drive Coral Bleaching on Caribbean Reefs

Jennifer A. Gill, Andrew R. Watkinson, John P. McWilliams and Isabelle M. Côté
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 103, No. 49 (Dec. 5, 2006), pp. 18870-18873
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30051205
Page Count: 4
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Opposing Forces of Aerosol Cooling and El Niño Drive Coral Bleaching on Caribbean Reefs
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Abstract

Bleaching of corals as a result of elevated sea surface temperatures (SST) is rapidly becoming a primary source of stress for reefs globally; the scale and extent of this threat will depend on how the drivers of SST interact to influence bleaching patterns. We demonstrate how the opposing forces of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and levels of atmospheric aerosols drive regionalscale patterns of coral bleaching across the Caribbean. When aerosol levels are low, bleaching is largely determined by El Niño strength, but high aerosol levels mitigate the effects of a severe El Niño. High aerosol levels, resulting principally from recent volcanic activity, have thus protected Caribbean reefs from more frequent widespread bleaching events but cannot be relied on to provide similar protection in the future.

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