World’s first, satellite-based monitoring system goes global to help save coral reefs

New Allen Coral Atlas tool to aid coral rescue and recovery efforts


Science Business Announcement


The current prognosis for our world’s coral reefs is bleak. With ever warming, more polluted and acidic oceans, models predict that 70% to 90% of coral reefs will be lost by 2050. To date, there has not been a global system in place to monitor coral reefs under the stresses that may lead to their deaths. But scientists now have a tool to monitor the global health of coral reefs, bringing new hope to conservation efforts.

Today, the Allen Coral Atlas released the world’s first, real-time, satellite-based global coral reef bleaching monitoring system. Combined with the Atlas’ reef extent and composition maps, scheduled for completion in July, the full suite of mapping and monitoring tools of the Allen Coral Atlas Monitoring System provides a comprehensive and unprecedented picture of changes to coral reefs over time, giving scientists, decision and policymakers and the reef management community critically important information urgently needed for rapid response and conservation.

“Our ability to monitor changes in coral reef conditions has always been a clear but challenging requirement to drive decisions on where to apply our best restorative and protective strategies,” said Professor Greg Asner, managing director of the Allen Coral Atlas, and director of Arizona State University’s (ASU) Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science. “The new Atlas Monitoring System is a major step in our effort to bring eyes to the reef at a global scale and yet with extraordinary detail needed for progressive reef interventions.”

The satellite eyes on the world’s reefs detect variations in reef brightness by using high-resolution satellite imagery powered by an advanced algorithm indicating whether reefs are under stress or resilient to marine heatwaves. Researchers, conservationists, policy-makers and others who use the monitoring system platform can observe where corals are bleaching throughout the world, ranging from no bleaching to severe.

“This monitoring capability will help us to see, for the first time, where and to what extent coral bleaching is likely to be occurring as well as where it isn’t bleaching so we can identify resilient reefs,” commented Paulina Gerstner, program director for the Allen Coral Atlas. “The system is the outcome of years of effort involving our ecologists, remote sensing scientists, software engineers and many others.”

ASU’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science successfully piloted a beta version of the Atlas Monitoring System in Hawaii during the 2019 Pacific Ocean heatwave. The beta version revealed bleaching “hotspots” spread across the Hawai`ian Islands that went undetected by more traditional field-based methods. This provided greater context for understanding the progression of coral bleaching and helped to target mitigation efforts to reduce secondary stressors on threatened corals. Studies have shown that if secondary stressors are reduced before, during and after bleaching events, corals are more likely to survive.

The beta version also allowed Asner and his team to identify hardier heat-resistant coral species for use in future coral reef restoration efforts. As ocean warming events are more likely to become much more frequent due to climate change, the Atlas’ ability to provide full coverage of coral disturbance in real-time will play a key role in helping conservation scientists and policy-makers to better identify declining species and scale-up restoration efforts where they are needed.

“It’s important for people to understand that this is just the first global version of our monitoring system. We intend to improve and expand it to include a broader range of impacts on reefs such as land-sea pollutants and sediments,” said Asner. “This first, truly global reef monitoring system is simply a drop in the bucket for what is to come.”


The Allen Coral Atlas, named for the late Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, is funded by Vulcan Inc. and directed by Arizona State University. It was developed through a unique partnership between Arizona State University, University of Queensland, National Geographic Society, Planet, and Vulcan.

For more information please visit

The Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science (GDCS) at Arizona State University is the locus where big biogeographic ideas meet big technology approaches. Our expert team leads spatially explicit scientific and technological research focused on mitigating and adapting to global environmental change. Through collaborations across the ASU community and with non-governmental organizations, businesses, governments, and trailblazers in conservation science, we aim to generate innovative scientific discoveries and outcomes that benefit conservation, resource management, and policy efforts on a global scale.

From EurekAlert!

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May 19, 2021 10:53 pm

Such arrogant – nonsense. This contraption is even higher above the sea than JCU pundits tootling along in aircraft. Hopefully their “progressive reef interventions” will not materialise.

Reply to  Martin Clark
May 20, 2021 6:51 am

tropical corals grow in cuts and passes….where their pH, temp, and salinity change with every tide change
tropical corals grow on the top of reefs..that are exposed to air, baking sun, and even rain at low tides
tropical corals grow anywhere from the surface down to 100’s of feet

the pretty little delicate branching corals…they like to take pictures of….are the weeds in that garden
they don’t build reefs…they build rubble…they grow over and smother out the true reef building corals

Rory Forbes
May 19, 2021 11:10 pm

The only “saving” needed here is saving the planet from politicized, true believing pseudo scientists.

The current prognosis for our world’s coral reefs is bleak. With ever warming, more polluted and acidic oceans, models predict that 70% to 90% of coral reefs will be lost by 2050.

A veritable treasure trove of unsupported, unsupportable babble that no one will ever have to answer for if wrong. With a near perfect failure rate for all “projections” and all scary predictions, there is little likelihood that anything valuable can betaken from this nonsense. If every assertion in the very first statement is demonstrable ca-ca how can the rest be taken seriously?

Ron Long
Reply to  Rory Forbes
May 20, 2021 2:55 am

Right on, Rory Forbes. They not only misuse the term “acidic”, when they should have possibly said less alkaline, but later they claim to identify “where there isn’t bleaching so we can identify more resilient reefs”. If, and it’s a giant if, oceans actually warm up enough for corals to notice, these “more resilient” reefs will expand. It pains me to think coral reefs are smarter than these idiots, but there you go.

Reply to  Rory Forbes
May 20, 2021 3:43 am

Yeah, that ‘prognosis’ jumped out at me as well, Rory.

My first thought was, “Just how old are corals; 500 million years or so? And hothouse Earth and snowball Earth didn’t do them in?” These alleged coral experts should know that.
You wrote: “A veritable treasure trove of unsupported, unsupportable babble that no one will ever have to answer for if wrong. ”
Agree 100%, except… what do you men IF they are wrong.?

They are wrong. Corals have survived all sorts of climates much warmer and much colder than anything we’ll see. Humans could kill all the coral through massive pollution, but corals aren’t going anywhere any time soon based on weather or climate.

May 19, 2021 11:16 pm

As I read along, I read of software, remote sensing, and algorithms. I was wondering what program did they have to field verify what the models are reporting out. Now let’s be real, here.
These are some of the best snorkeling and diving sites, around some of the most beautiful vacation spots in the world. Getting paid to swim in some of these locations, research grantsmanship at its best.

Then there was this:
The beta version revealed bleaching “hotspots” spread across the Hawai`ian Islands that went undetected by more traditional field-based methods.

Undetected by field survey. So you can see a bleached reef portion from outer space but you can not see if from a boat.
The field data was wrong, good thing we have the models to correct the faulty data.

Same old, same old. YouReekAlerts are just not worth reading.

Paul Johnson
Reply to  TonyL
May 20, 2021 8:22 am

Yes. A significant omission in the article (and perhaps the research) is field verification of the previously undetected “hotspots”. What’s the ground truth?
Also omitted are definitions of Low, Moderate, and Severe bleaching in the satellite image as well as the context for the image. Is it a follow-up to a known severe bleaching event or reflective of normal “turnover” in tropical corals?

Reply to  TonyL
May 20, 2021 9:17 am

For what it’s worth, they do have a sub-page describing their field verification efforts:

What i could not find in the documentation is if the definition of “low” includes zero, which it appears to. I find this disingenuous at best, programmed to mislead at worst, as all coral will show up at least as a yellow caution, even with no bleaching.

Zig Zag Wanderer
May 20, 2021 12:17 am

With ever warming, more polluted and acidic oceans,

I stopped there.

To warm the oceans by 1K requires 1,000K warning of the atmosphere. I suppose that the top few cm may warm faster, but it still requires a heck of a lot more than the 1K of warming we have (supposedly) had so far.

The oceans are not acidic, and cannot realistically become acidic. They may be ever so slightly less caustic, but I doubt very much that 100 years old pH measurements are accurate to within the 0.1 pH change that has been suggested.

Last edited 1 month ago by Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
May 20, 2021 1:24 am

Trivia Facts:
The first pH meter was invented by Arnold Beckman in 1934.
{This, of course, is the the start of the famous company Beckman Instruments.}

Any ocean pH measurements before this date are Highly suspect.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
May 20, 2021 1:27 am

ZIg Zag Wanderer,
Spot on.
The most recent AR 5 has the pH of the oceans declining from 8.2 to 8.1 since pre-Industrial times.
In the latest State of the Climate 2020 in Australia, the figure for the oceans surrounding the Continent is a decline in pH from 8.18 to 8.08.
Rather coyly, that Report says the decline in pH in question is variable at points of record around the Continent.
The measure in question is logarithmic which is rarely mentioned and we are told that the increase in acidity is 30% over the period.
As a number of commentators point out,the mild decline in pH and claimed “acidification” is a confected non-issue.

Reply to  Herbert
May 20, 2021 5:15 am

the ph of anywhere in the ocean rises and falls dramatically over very short time spans depending on the immediate biological activity . there is no meaningful ph for the entire ocean

Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  garboard
May 20, 2021 7:37 am

Kind of like stating one number for the earth’s temp, designed to hide and confuse

Rory Forbes
Reply to  garboard
May 20, 2021 10:07 am

there is no meaningful ph for the entire ocean

Just as there is no meaningful temperature or climate for the whole world.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
May 20, 2021 8:54 am

The GDCS???? Yet another alphabet organization up to no good,…..warmer seas mean outgassing CO2 means less towards the acidic end of the scale means protecting those corals….without corals means…..??????….we’re all gonna die?

May 20, 2021 12:26 am

While a satellite may pick up some bleaching on the top surface (given the limitations of cloud & refraction), they cant see the main part. It’s stupid lazy pseudo-science.

Much like judging the state of a car engine by looking at the condition of the paint on the bonnet/hood.

Reply to  saveenergy
May 20, 2021 5:18 am

betcha that satellite is gonna need plenty of adjustments to tune it to model predictions . like the Argo temp buoys were

May 20, 2021 12:50 am

We intend to improve and expand it to include a broader range of impacts on reefs such as land-sea pollutants and sediments, …

That would be good. The other thing that would be good would be indicating the location of healthy corals.

The corals are like polar bears. They have happily survived previous periods that were warmer than the present. They have marched up and down hill as sea levels have changed more than 400 feet. Like the case with polar bears, there are things that people could do that are actually bad for them. We know that when over-hunting was controlled, polar bear numbers began to increase. Similarly, I’m willing to believe that actual pollution might be bad for corals.

I’m also willing to believe that shallow water corals might be susceptible to heat waves. Can this instrumentation detect all corals or just those located in shallow water? I suspect that bleached coral is easier to detect because it reflects more light. Is this instrumentation any good at even seeing healthy coral? So many questions.

May 20, 2021 12:56 am

The current prognosis for our world’s coral reefs is bleak. With ever warming, more polluted and acidic oceans, models predict that 70% to 90% of coral reefs will be lost by 2050.

There’s that “models predict” thingy again. Along with ever warming acidic oceans. Of course, the scientists when pressed, say models can’t predict, only project. But then, they never ever step up and say “Stop printing that crap, it’s false” when this nonsense keeps getting published with their names attached to it.

One wonders why they need any new equipment to study corals, since the prognosis is for their extinction anyway.

Last edited 1 month ago by Doonman
Patrick MJD
May 20, 2021 1:54 am

“…models predict that…”

Oh dear!

Joao Martins
May 20, 2021 2:31 am

A dialogue between one “scientist” and one Coral Reef:

“Scientist”: “We are going to save the coral reefs!”

Coral Reef: “Please, don’t save us!”

Last edited 1 month ago by Joao Martins
Reply to  Joao Martins
May 20, 2021 7:22 am

“I’m from the government, I’m here to help….”

Coeur de Lion
May 20, 2021 3:04 am

Don’t worry, guys. This will all go very quiet after a few years as nothing will change and there will be no media story. So actually this contraption will be a benefit. (I do smile at the thought of a few scuba divers planting a few ‘resistant’ corals somewhere in the vast vast expanses of global coral reefs. And watching them? Yeah, man)

Chris Wright
May 20, 2021 3:15 am

“The current prognosis for our world’s coral reefs is bleak. With ever warming, more polluted and acidic oceans, models predict that 70% to 90% of coral reefs will be lost by 2050….”

I stopped reading this garbage right there.

Forrest Gardener
Reply to  Chris Wright
May 20, 2021 5:47 pm

Me too. Plainly we are not in their target demographic.

James Bull
May 20, 2021 3:45 am

I think they got the colours reversed on the picture! If it was worserer then any and everybody thought shouldn’t there be much more red and less yellow or is this another case of we’ll have to adjust the data to fit our thinking?

James Bull

Peta of Newark
May 20, 2021 3:51 am

<Bad Mood Mode>

Yet another over-hyped and sensationalised Flying Garbage Can
Along with computers, it will be endowed with ultra authoritarian powers to instil fear and panic over the hapless Earth Dwellers. The very people who paid for it.
(What has done wrong here?)

Launched by Mental Midgets with aspiration of World Domination who will direct its God-like pronouncements.
It will do nothing but rain down bad news, more bad news, tax & price rises, control control and control under the direction of pathetic & puritanical weaklings who would totally ‘lose it’ at finding a spider in their own bathtubs.
As almost all Sputniks do and always have done.

Yes, we desperately need Unreliable Energy, so that power-grabbing, fear & stress inducing and larcenous monstrosities like this, Crash and Burn.

Did they have ‘Bad Weather’ during the Dark Ages?
What sort of reports are coming out of there?

Can’t have been all that bad, ‘we’ seem to have come through and, while in there, been happy and well-adjusted enough to continue making babies.
What sort of and how many wars went on in there?

Neither of those happiness nor baby-making things apply right now.
So, where are the statsitckitistuctissytishians, what say they:
Are Sputniks the cause of that, or the effect?

Alexy Scherbakoff
May 20, 2021 4:45 am

Just sprinkle some caustic soda over the coral. That should fix the acidity problem.

very old white guy
May 20, 2021 4:56 am

I look forward to the day when all of nature is controlled by man. Do I need a tag?

May 20, 2021 5:12 am

Coral rescue?

Is that a thing?

Forrest Gardener
Reply to  TomO
May 20, 2021 5:49 pm

Saving the world one polyp at a time.

May 20, 2021 6:03 am

Why not monitor the reefs directly? Oh, yea, then people would know the truth. Never mind.

Reply to  2hotel9
May 20, 2021 9:46 am

Since the fate of the bears is so intertwined with the corals, the bears should send a coupla bears (muscle) down to help the corals……keep those divers away from the very delicate corals.

Reply to  Anti_griff
May 20, 2021 9:59 am

Polar bears would probably love some coral research scientist on the menu, lot thinner “skin” than their Arctic Ice researching cousins!

May 20, 2021 6:47 am

It’s a satellite-based advanced “submarine coral detection system”. If you leave out the word “coral”, you will be much closer to what it really is.

Reply to  DMacKenzie,
May 20, 2021 7:27 am

…and now you’ve created before my mind’s eye this beam of high energy photonic radar searching for that “untraceably submarine” of the Ruskies, scorching the poor corals with radiation burns wherever the search beam crosses a reef…
Now the little corally polyp thingies are letting out a wailing scream, iiiiiiiii! they say. Why did you do this to me?
Why, MacKenzie, why?

May 20, 2021 7:50 am

Yes — we are now god. We can control everything. Got it.

Bruce Cobb
May 20, 2021 8:27 am

Who will save science?

May 20, 2021 8:57 am


Do these folks realize that Hawaii is now banning sunscreen to save the coral?

So we trade skin cancer for the coral polyps that will move with the sea currents and start reefs elsewhere.

Gums sends…

May 20, 2021 10:04 am

Maybe to “save” the coral reefs, we first have to destroy them.

Just like we did with the Bikini Atoll reefs, which totally re-grew themselves in just 60 years after total obliteration by H-bomb tests in the 1950s.

Andy Pattullo
May 20, 2021 10:38 am

Could have saved a ton of money had they just consulted a medium. Insights gained would have been just as useful, with cash left over to fund some science.

May 20, 2021 2:12 pm

Today, the Allen Coral Atlas released the world’s first, real-time, satellite-based global coral reef bleaching monitoring system.

Like hell they did. NOAA et al beat them to it a long time ago, making Allen’s Atlas redundant.

comment image

May 20, 2021 5:47 pm

They don’t understand basic chemistry
you can’t make our oceans acidic
they are basic by there very nature
If it was acidic we would not have one of the most basic materials – limestone

May 20, 2021 9:41 pm

“Counting bleached coral from aircraft didn’t work in Australia, let’s launch a satellite so we can…”

Knowing just enough through experience to be dangerous: Unfortunately, satellite imagery data is the least reliable way to match color, even less so below the ocean surface, and must be interpreted manually by a skilled operator on calibrated equipment. Preferably compared by the same operator using the same equipment from the same satellite camera. Same sun angle (best local noon) and same tide for a given geographic location, size subject to the resolution of the instrument.

Or you could just say “enhance” alot. Works on TV.

Civilian (non military) arial imagery was developed by oil exploration companies. Doesn’t that make it priveleged science or something?

Greens have already manipulated the vast fictional field of ocean plastic in the Pacific, what could possibly go wrong?

Last edited 1 month ago by dk_
Gerry, England
May 21, 2021 6:43 am

Why do they go to the trouble of trying to produce ‘data’? They could just make it up like they do at JCU.

Reply to  Gerry, England
May 21, 2021 7:20 am

People often confuse data with information, and with useful information. Seldom seen is a promise to produce useful information.

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