For more than 20 years, NOAA Coral Reef Watch (CRW) has been using remote sensing, modeled, and in situ data to operate a
decision support system (DSS) to help resource managers (our target audience), researchers, decision makers,
and other stakeholders around the world prepare for and respond to coral reef ecosystem stressors, predominantly resulting
from climate change and warming of the Earth's oceans.
Offering the world's only global early-warning system of coral reef ecosystem physical environmental changes, CRW remotely monitors conditions that can cause coral bleaching, disease, and death; delivers information and early warnings in near real-time to our user community; and uses operational climate forecasts to provide outlooks of stressful environmental conditions at targeted reef locations worldwide. CRW products are primarily sea surface temperature (SST)-based but also incorporate light and ocean color, among other variables.
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Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Reefs support
essential coastal fisheries, protect coasts from erosion, support local
tourism and are sources of pharmaceuticals. Sustained high water temperatures,
in conjunction with other natural and human-based stressors, may cause coral
bleaching to become an annual event in most oceans. This could lead to a rapid
decline in the health of coral ecosystems worldwide.
Corals are very sensitive to stress caused by elevated water temperatures, bright sunny days, and calm water. Corals respond to stressful temperatures by expelling the symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) that live within their tissues and provide most of their food and characteristic color. While corals can recover from short-term, minor stress, they can starve and die if the stressful conditions continue for weeks or months. Coral bleaching has become much more severe and frequent in recent decades as sea temperatures have risen. For more information on coral bleaching, click here.
Educational trifold brochure (last updated: April 2019)
Our Decision Support System (DSS) for Coral Reef Management
Applying our DSS to Coral Reef Management
The 2014-2017 Global Coral Bleaching Event and Coral Bleaching in the Anthropocene
Click here for a brief history of the early years (1997-2007) of the NOAA CRW program, as featured in "NOAA Celebrates 200 Years of Science, Service, and Stewardship".
Coral Reef Watch is part of a larger effort at NOAA to understand and protect coral reefs. For more information on NOAA's broader coral reef activities, please email Coral Reef Watch directly, or visit the Coral Reef Conservation Program website. You can also fax your question to: 301-713-4012, or mail it to:
Attn: Outreach and Education
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, N/OCRM
1305 East West Highway, 10th Floor
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3281
NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service
NOAA's National Ocean Service
NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program Communications Director