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The planets coral reefs have been taking a hammeringlately.Withthe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration( NOAA) proclaiming only the third ever global coral bleaching event last year, what started around Hawaii and Florida has spread to all oceans, even causing devastating impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.But now scientists might have another tool in their box to help monitor the health of the reefs, from 780 kilometers( 485 miles) up.
Going operational at the end of last year, the European Space Agencys new Sentinel-2a satellites colour camera has been taking incredible scenes ofEarths surface. To be used by scientists to way everything from the yields of crops to the growth of cities, it seems that it might also be able to peer under the waves and assess personal health and growth of coral reefs around the world. A new project, called Sen2Coral, is tracking one particular reef, and has already saw a lightening of the coral that’sindicative of bleaching.
By selecting merely the blue band of sun from the camera, the satelliteis able to see between 10 and 15 meters( 33 and 50 feet) below the surface of the ocean. By doing this, features of the reef that you cannot see in the full color images jump out and become much more prominent. This could be a vital tool in assessing the health of reef over a much larger area than is currently possible by boat or air-based surveys, and would also be much cheaper, devoting scientists a precise picture of just what exactly is going on in the oceans.
Currently, as ocean surface temperatures rise, it causescoral around the world to bleach. This occurs whenthe stressed coral expel thealgae that live in their tissues, turning them white.This in itself doesnt kill the coral, but if the water temperatures stay warm for too long, it can eventually do so. The bleaching also attains the reefs more susceptible to disease.
Hopefully, ifSentinel-2a’s techniques can be definitively validated, the spacecraft can become another useful tool to detect and trackchanges in coral reefs.
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