Message in the Coral

Welcome to Coral Beat

The coral reefs are sending us a message. Higher temperatures are stressing the corals, causing them to bleach or turn white. Bleaching happens when corals lose the tiny algae that live in and feed the corals. Stressed corals that survive bleaching then begin to starve. Coral reefs play an integral role in the health of our ocean ecosystem. They are home to millions of marine species, directly influence Hawaii’s tourism economy, and protect our shores. We offer this resource for local residents, visitors, and the science community to learn about and help track the effects of bleaching.

2015 Sea Surface Temperature

2015 was hot! The average global temperature was the highest ever recorded. Cyclical climatic ocean events, such as El Niño, stressed reefs worldwide with warmer than normal water. This interactive map of 2015 sea surface temperature shows the heart-beat of seasonal change.


Explore NOAA and HIMB survey data from the 2014 and 2015 Events

Progress to help corals
is being made:


  • The NASA CORAL project will monitor reefs by remote sensing plane, starting with ground-truthing in Kaneohe Bay June 2016.
  • The NASA CORAL project will use spectral imagery for reefs in Hawaii, Florida and elsewhere.
  • New imaging techniques such as imaging with drones and 3D reconstruction help monitor and sample reefs in detail. This high-resolution reef imagery is collected with a drone, whils 3D reconstructions of the reef give unprecedented information about surfaces, habitat, and form.
  • Work to find, grow, and outplant corals more resilient to ocean acidification and bleaching has begun. This work involves intensive lab and field work in Hawaii and Australia.
  • Some corals are able to switch their symbiotic algae to types more resistant to bleaching— a very recent discovery. These corals are doing all they can to adapt.
  • These cutting-edge projects to grow knowledge to help sustain and manage coral reefs are happening right here in Hawaii!