The same warm seas that fuelled the major hurricane season the Caribbean has suffered this year is also severely damaging and bleaching corals off
Florida, Cuba, The Virgin Islands, Barbados and Puerto Rico. Average temperatures in the area have been 29-33 C which can kill the algae that live
next to corals and are a source of food to the corals. Some areas have up to 89 percent damage to the coral with average damage of around 50 percent.
The causes of the unusually high water temperatures in the region is unknown.
Hurricane Rita was expected to make landfall early on Saturday, local time, near the Texas and Louisiana border three weeks after Katrina struck the
Gulf coast. Katrina killed at least 1,069 people.
Hurricanes can reduce bleaching of corals by stirring up cooler, deeper waters. "Thankfully for corals off Florida, Katrina cooled things down," Ms
But storms can also throw up damaging waves. Cyclone Heta in the Pacific Ocean last year, for instance, caused wide damage to corals of Tutuila
island, part of Samoa, with waves that smashed up the ocean floor, Ms Hansen said.
Many scientists say that a build-up of gases from burning fossil fuels in cars, factories and power plants are blanketing the world and are slowly
driving up temperatures.
The scientific panel that advises the United Nations has estimated that average world temperatures could rise by 1.4-5.8C by the year 2100, triggering
ever more powerful storms.
Still, corals have sometimes been surprisingly resilient to warmth.
Many recovered sharply from a 1998 bleaching that damaged corals especially in the western Pacific and Indian Ocean.
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A smiliar event occured after tropical cyclone Ingrid destroyed 10 percent of the barrier reef earlier this year in Australia.
The warmer temperatures may have something to do with the hole in the ozone layer above the antarctic being larger than in previous years which leaves
a gaping wound in the Earths potection layer. Solar flares have been active and other anomalies including the possibility that global warming is
producing this effect.