Up to 5% of the ocean's coral reefs will have died by the end of 2015, with the situation only going to worsen in what has been described as "the worst period of coral bleaching we've seen". Furthermore, 38% of the reefs will have been affected by climate change in some way by the time 2015 draws to a close.
As the global average temperature continues to rise, it is expected that the mass bleaching of corals will exceed the damage which was experienced in 1998. An underwater heatwave which has been ongoing since the middle of 2014 has caused the damage, and this will continue, according to Dr Mark Eakin, the coordinator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coral Reef Watch programme.
He told the Guardian: "The fact that 2016's bleaching will be added on top of the bleaching that has occurred since June 2014 makes me really worried about what the cumulative impact may be. It very well may be the worst period of coral bleaching we've seen."
Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Australia, added: "The development of conditions in the Pacific looks exactly like what happened in 1997. And of course following 1997 we had this extremely warm year, with damage occurring in 50 countries at least and 16% of corals dying by the end of it. Many of us think this will exceed the damage that was done in 1998."