Satellites & Bleaching


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Welcome    |    About Coral Reef Watch
bleached coral

Example of a bleached coral. Photo by Dr. C. Mark Eakin, NOAA Coral Reef Watch.

The purpose of these modules is to introduce users to satellite tools that are used to pinpoint and monitor areas around the world where corals are at risk for bleaching. At present, this tutorial focuses mainly on Coral Reef Watch's heritage suite of operational 50-km resolution satellite products. We look to update the tutorial in the near future to focus on the next-generation 5-km resolution satellite products (derived from a blend of geostationary and polar-orbiting environmental satellite data) that now form the core of Coral Reef Watch's decision support system for coral bleaching management.

The Coral Reef Watch (CRW) program, part of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), assesses bleaching risk using satellite, modeled, and in situ environmental data. Since this tutorial focuses only on satellite monitoring of coral bleaching, we first provide background on satellite remote sensing. We then introduce some of the main tools CRW produces from NOAA's 50-km satellite data, including Sea Surface Temperature (SST), SST Anomaly, Coral Bleaching HotSpot, and Degree Heating Week products. We also introduce briefly our Virtual Stations product and Satellite Bleaching Alert email system. (Please note that the Satellite Bleaching Alert email system was recently upgraded to provide 5-km satellite observational data; therefore, the email system based on the 50-km satellite data was retired.)

The aim of this tutorial is to teach you enough about NOAA CRW's 50-km satellite products so that you can feel comfortable using the data independently in the future. You will gain the skills needed to access and use up-to-date satellite information about where coral bleaching may be happening around the world. In separate PDF documents, you also will find some hands-on exercises that you can use to test yourself on what you have learned.

Our main audience for these lessons is coral reef ecosystem managers and scientists, who need to know when corals they manage or study are at risk for bleaching. However, we also have tried to make this tutorial instructive for the public, especially students and teachers, who want to learn more about coral reefs and satellite remote sensing technology. The lessons are tied to the U.S. National Science Education standards for use in the classroom.

The tutorial is content rich and presented in easy-to-understand language. It is made up of 11 "chapters" (plus Reference and Resource pages) that can be read in sequence by clicking on the arrows at the top or bottom of each chapter page. The tutorial includes many illustrative and interactive graphics to enhance the text.

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