This bleaching event began in June 2014, and has been continuously spreading across the Pacific Ocean. By 2015, coral bleaching was occurring in the south Pacific Ocean. It has now spread further in to the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, and coral bleaching has been reported in Florida, Cuba, Bahamas, Haiti, Puerto Rico and other coastal countries. Coral in Hawaii, specifically, is in the worst condition scientists have ever seen.
A group of ocean scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), XL Catlin Seaview Survey, the University of Queensland, and Reef Check, confirmed this bleaching event is being brought on by a combination of a strong El Niño pattern, a warm water mass in the Pacific called "the Blob," and increasingly warming ocean temperatures brought on by climate change. This potentially lethal mixture of elements is expected to impact about 38 percent of the world's coral reefs by the end of this year and kill over 4,633 square miles (12,000 square kilometers) of reefs. NOAA predicts that by the end of 2015, almost 95 percent of U.S. coral reefs will have been exposed to ocean conditions that can cause corals to bleach.
"People are very dependent on coral reefs around the world. Half a billion people rely on coral reefs and fisheries to survive," Eakin said.