Sep132009
NOAA's Corals and Climate
Written by Ava

Coral paleoclimatology, the study of corals and how they relate to climate and climate change, can be quite a complex concept.  Lucky for us, Bruce Bauer, the Data Manager for the World Data Center for Paleoclimatology and a member of the Paleoclimatology Branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center, makes it quite simple with these short, but concrete responses to some of our questions on a topic we'd love to learn much more about. 

What does Bruce and NOAA's general Paleoclimatology program do exactly? According to it's official site, it provides the paleoclimate data and information needed to understand and model inter-annual to centennial-scale environmental variability.   It's also operates the World Data Center for Paleoclimatology, and an Applied Research Center for Paleoclimatology.

It doesn't just look at climate relating to corals, of course.  We're happy to know they do research and collect data on lakes and oceans, too!

Bruce's answers may be short and sweet, but the NOAA's Paleoclimatology program, particularly in the Coral department, is making some big changes!

What is coral paleoclimatology?

Paleoclimatology is the study of past climate.  Corals can contain chemical tracers in their carbonate skeletons which act as proxy climate recorders.

How exactly do corals affect climate change and why is this so important to understanding the long term effects of climate variability?

Corals do not affect climate - rather they record chemical tracers (oxygen isotopes, Mg/Ca ratios) within their skeletons which give clues to past changes in water chemistry and therefore climate conditions.

Why put this much effort in corals relating to climate change?


Instrumental Climate information is sparse in tropical ocean regions, but these regions are a critical portion of the Earth's climate system.

How does NOAA seek to educate the world on the effects of coral paleoclimatology?

By archiving the data and climatic interpretations based on it, and making it available via the internet.   

I’m someone who is skeptical that coral reefs really do have an affect on climate change and climate change will make a negative impact in the coming years even if it’s not doing so now. How does NOAA seek to convince someone like me?


Corals are a critical habitat for a multitude of oceanic species, and are vulnerable to climate and water chemistry changes.

What are some of NOAA’s projects and campaigns against the negative effect of climate change on corals.

NOAA provides scientific information to policymakers on the effects of climate change on marine organisms.

What is NOAA to help stop the spread of coral bleaching? (Educating, actually going out to try save corals.)

NOAA provides alerts to resource managers when bleaching events are forecast. 

Explain the International Coral Reef Initiative.

The U.S. State Department has the lead for coordinating the effort, with NOAA playing a major role as well as the Department of Interior, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the EPA. OCRM's National Research coordinator, Dr. Michael Crosby, is a member of the U.S. Coral Reef Coordination Team and Steering Committee that will coordinate and oversee the development of the entire initiative.

Definitely go here for more information: Global Relief Effort for Coral Reefs.

What are NOAA’s plans in the area of coral paleoclimatology for the future? What are your goals?

Continue to support research efforts around the world to gather Coral-based paleoclimatic data.  We hope to understand and predict climate change and its likely consequences.  

Is it really the International Year of the Reef?

As part of NOAA's contribution to the International Year of the Reef (IYOR), this website has been created to provide information on coral paleoclimatology. The site is designed to inform scientific and general audiences about some of the important questions of modern climate variability and the uses of corals to understand past climate. 


 

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