PETALING JAYA: A conservation group monitoring coral in Malaysian waters has warned of a body of warm water forming in the Indian Ocean which can lead to coral bleaching.
Reef Check Malaysia general manager Julian Hyde said a review of information from the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed that the body of warm water was slowly moving eastwards towards Malaysia.
“We haven’t had reports of bleaching yet. It’s a little early.
“For bleaching to start, there needs to be several consecutive weeks of warm water, which requires an even more extended stretch of hot weather. So far, nothing yet,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Hyde was responding to a question whether coral bleaching had been observed in waters off Malaysia.
Coral bleaching happens when corals expel the algae living in their tissues when the water turns warm, causing the coral to turn completely white. Although a bleaching coral is not dead, it is under more stress.
He said there were warnings from the global scientific community that there could be a strong El Nino weather pattern this year, which could lead to bleaching.
“We review the information available from NOAA on a weekly basis – they publish data on sea surface temperatures, an indicator of possible bleaching.
“There appears to be a body of warm water forming in the Indian Ocean, which is slowly moving towards us,” he said.
Weekly satellite pictures, said Hyde, showed the spreading of light and dark yellow areas.
“These are bleaching alerts showing possible warming waters,” he said, adding that Reef Check regularly spoke to people in the field.
He said they had seen similar pictures previously with apparent warming waters.
“But then temperatures regularised and no bleaching resulted. So, it is too early to be sure now. All I can say is that we are monitoring it,” he said.
Malaysia is currently facing a hot and dry spell until the end of the month.
The Malaysian Meteorological Department, in a report on the country’s weather outlook from February to July, said that most international climate models predicted a 65% possibility of the El Nino weather phenomenon occurring until May.
El Nino is an irregular weather phenomenon that causes sea temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean to rise, bringing hot and dry weather to Malaysia.