A century of ocean warming on Florida Keys coral reefs: historic in situ observations

Estuaries and Coasts
By: , and 



There is strong evidence that global climate change over the last several decades has caused shifts in species distributions, species extinctions, and alterations in the functioning of ecosystems. However, because of high variability on short (i.e., diurnal, seasonal, and annual) timescales as well as the recency of a comprehensive instrumental record, it is difficult to detect or provide evidence for long-term, site-specific trends in ocean temperature. Here we analyze five in situ datasets from Florida Keys coral reef habitats, including historic measurements taken by lighthouse keepers, to provide three independent lines of evidence supporting approximately 0.8 °C of warming in sea surface temperature (SST) over the last century. Results indicate that the warming observed in the records between 1878 and 2012 can be fully accounted for by the warming observed in recent decades (from 1975 to 2007), documented using in situ thermographs on a mid-shore patch reef. The magnitude of warming revealed here is similar to that found in other SST datasets from the region and to that observed in global mean surface temperature. The geologic context and significance of recent ocean warming to coral growth and population dynamics are discussed, as is the future prognosis for the Florida reef tract.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A century of ocean warming on Florida Keys coral reefs: historic in situ observations
Series title Estuaries and Coasts
DOI 10.1007/s12237-014-9875-5
Volume 38
Issue 3
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Springer US
Contributing office(s) St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 1085
Last page 1096
Country United States
State Florida
Other Geospatial Florida Keys
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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