The Ocean

Photo: A diver in the southern Line Islands.

Photograph by Vince Kerr

Anthropogenic climate change poses a serious threat to coral reefs around the world. The impacts of global warming can be isolated by studying long-lived corals growing on remote, uninhabited islands of the central tropical Pacific, where human impact is nonexistent—this is what NGS/Waitt grantee Dr. Kim Cobb and her team plan to do. By analyzing the chemistry of large coral skeletons collected from reefs in this area, they can reconstruct the monthly history of temperature and rainfall patterns for the last 50 to 100 years.

Tropical Pacific climate oscillations and trends profoundly affect temperature and rainfall patterns around the world, impacting Atlantic hurricane activity, Indian monsoon strength, and drought in the western U.S. An accurate history of tropical Pacific temperatures and rainfall may help to both explain regional climate trends over the last decades and to improve regional climate forecasts for the coming decades.

They propose to survey coral reef health, install environmental monitoring devices, and collect long coral cores from three equatorial islands—Malden, Starbuck, and Filippo. The team chose to target these three islands because they are heavily impacted by the powerful climate systems that they would like to reconstruct; their location is poorly sampled by available instrumental climate data; and very little scientific research has been conducted there, so much can be gained from this expedition's data. Moreover, there is some urgency to the proposed work, as climate change continues to degrade coral reef health, such that the large, healthy coral colonies we need for our studies may disappear in coming years.

Ocean Topics

Your Ocean

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    For Kids

    Learn about the ocean with activities, photos, and games.

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    Ocean Education

    Bring engaging and important ocean learning to your classroom.

Marine Recreation Workshop

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    Online Toolkit

    National Geographic Education Programs supports the marine recreation community through a shared goal of raising public awareness about ocean conservation and inspiring people to help protect the vital natural resources that the ocean provides.

Explore the Ocean

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    Order ocean books, DVDs, maps, and more from the National Geographic online store.

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    Ocean Special Issue

    Explore the world's oceans, from their prehistoric beginnings to modern-day efforts to preserve their natural wonder.

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    Ocean: An Illustrated Atlas

    Immerse yourself in the wonders of the deep through colorful maps, photos, and satellite images.

Engage, Conserve, Restore

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    Freshwater Initiative

    The National Geographic Society’s freshwater initiative is a multi-year global effort to inspire and empower individuals and communities to conserve freshwater and preserve the extraordinary diversity of life that rivers, lakes, and wetlands sustain.