Urgent intervention: Earth observation versus coral bleaching

By on 29 August, 2018

AIMS Oceanographer Craig Steinberg and NOAA’s Dr Mark Eakin, during a visit this week to the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s National SeaSimulator. Image provided by AIMS.

Ocean researchers and Earth observation experts have converged on Townsville to improve satellite-derived sea surface temperature data products.

The SSTs (Sea Surface Temperatures) Over and Around Reefs (SOAR) workshop currently taking place in Townsville aims to map out development of improved methodologies for satellite SST retrieval algorithms to meet the needs of coral reef scientific and management communities.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) is co-hosting the five-day event, long with lead researchers from US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing Systems (IMOS), CSIRO, The Bureau of Meteorology and others including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

AIMS Oceanographer and conference host Craig Steinberg said the need to understand and improve sea surface temperature information in coastal and coral reef regions is critical.

“Each year, in the years from 2014 and 2017, somewhere in the world a coral reef was being bleached due to heat stress,” Mr. Steinberg said.

“We use satellites to give us a comprehensive measure of where global temperatures are at around the world, and the information produced by these satellites allows us to make predictions of where heat stress is occurring, and which coral reefs are being affected.”

“The idea is to improve the way information on sea surface temperatures is gathered from satellites, so it can better meet the needs of coral reef scientific and management communities,” he said.

Developers of the data products and algorithms will become acquainted with issues faced by end users, with the workshop aiming to facilitate understanding of end-user problems, help users understand the currently available solutions set, and to discuss algorithm improvements to develop more suitable SST products for the coral reef user community.

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