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El Nino Causing Bleaching of Coral in Galapagos Islands, Agency Finds

January 22, 1998

Extremely warm waters in the Pacific Ocean caused by El Nino are bleaching coral reefs in the Galapagos Islands, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency used satellite data to identify Galapagos "hot spots": places where water temperatures were 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the maximum temperatures expected.

Corals at the Galapagos thrive as long as temperatures remain at or below 81 degrees--the normal maximum sea surface temperature there--but a small increase in water temperatures can be harmful. Corals normally recover unless ocean temperatures rise too high or high temperatures last too long.

Compiled by Times medical writer Thomas H. Maugh II

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