Sea Temperatures

Bleached Keppel Island corals.
Bleached Keppel Island corals.
Photo: Dr Ray Berkelmans.

AIMS has been recording sea temperature data since 1987. Sea temperature is the most important environmental variable governing the abundance and distribution of life in our coastal seas. Even on tropical coral reefs, sea temperature has a surprisingly large influence on what grows where. Reef corals, for example, have a very narrow range of thermal tolerance.

Temperature tolerance in reef corals is as much about how long they spend at high temperatures as it is about how high temperatures get.

For example, corals at Magnetic Island in the central GBR can happily stand 30.5°C for 20 days, but just 90km away at Davies Reef, the same species of corals will bleach within a day and at Great Keppel Island in the southern GBR, they would be dead within a day.

Prolonged exposure to warm sea temperatures has been linked by AIMS research to an increase in the frequency of mass coral bleaching events, outbreaks of coral disease and plagues of crown-of-thorns starfish.

AIMS sea surface temperature data is also used in-house to calibrate temperature reconstructions from coral cores and satellite imagery, and also to better understand other biological processes on coral reefs such as coral growth and reproduction.

AIMS monitors sea temperature using remote satellites as well as in-situ temperature loggers. These instruments are now managed by AIMS as part of its role in coordinating the Great Barrier Reef Ocean Observing System (GBROOS) node of the nation-wide Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS).

In-situ sea temperature data
Satellite sea surface temperature data

Great Barrier Reef Ocean Observing System

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