In warm waters

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According to a study conducted by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, us, 1998 was the warmest year in 1,200 years . The rate of warming has also been on the rise since the 1970s, says a National Aeronautics and Space Administration study. This gives many scientists reason to believe that corals are but a victim of global warming. "The severity and extent of coral bleaching events cannot be accounted for by localised stresses alone. At this time, it appears that only global warming could have induced such extensive bleaching simultaneously throughout the disparate reef regions of the world,' says Rafe Pomerance, deputy assistant secretary of state for environment and development, in a report presented to the us Coral Reef Task Force in March 1999.

The study conducted by Pomerance and his team members, which is also said to be the most complete documentation of the problem ever, concluded that record ocean temperatures caused the largest die-off of corals in recorded history and catalogued coral decline in 60 countries. Last year's temperatures in the Indian Ocean, for instance, were about 2