HARTFORD -- Warmer water in the southern Pacific Ocean is helping to kill coral, causing them to turn white in a process known as bleaching.
A study released earlier this month by the Australian government found "The highest sea surface temperatures across the great barrier reef on record."
Those warm temperatures are leading to a loss of algae inside the coral, which contributes to that bleaching. In one spot off the northeast coast of Australia, over 80 percent of the coral was lost. Researchers are sounding the alarm, saying this isn't a problem we can ignore.
Terry Hughes, the program leader at James Cook University, agrees.
"Our goal is to try to convince governments that they need to listen more to the science, we'd like to engage more with the government and look for the solutions that will turn around the great barrier reef so that we can all enjoy it in 50 years time," Hughes said.
Hughes said it feels overwhelming to see how much coral has been lost. Warmer water due to climate change and overfishing has caused this bleaching.
Other large bleaching events have been observed in 1998, 2002 and now 2016. Coral takes time to rebuild, and can't recover fast enough to live through these large events.
As you may know, the great barrier reef is immensely important to the ocean's ecosystem. More than 1,500 species of fish live on the reef itself, which is around 10 percent of the world's total fish.
With the oceans warming up, these fish can migrate to cooler water, but they need that coral to provide shelter and food.
Hughes said the elephant in the room is climate change. Until the water in the south pacific starts cooling off, there's not much they can do, other than monitoring it as closely as possible.