Current conditions on the Reef

Each summer, we assess the health of reefs, as this part of the year poses a greater risk of extreme weather, particularly heat waves, cyclones and flooding.

Stressful conditions can lead to coral disease outbreaks, while poor water quality may make coral more susceptible to bleaching and lead to greater numbers of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish.

It’s important we have accurate, real time information on Reef conditions. Members of the public can report observations of coral bleaching, disease, predation or damage through the Eye on the Reef program.

Everyone can help support the Reef’s health and resilience by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, following responsible reef practices, including abiding by Marine Park zoning rules, not anchoring close to corals and responsibly disposing of litter.

Update 3: 14 February 2017

Overview of environmental conditions

Current daily sea surface temperature anomalies range from 0.9–2oC higher than long-term monthly averages within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Recent rainfall totals between 100 mm and 200 mm were recorded in the central and north tropical coasts of Queensland, the western tip of Cape York Peninsula. Rainfall to-date is below average by 200–1200 mm for the northern wet season. Trade winds are near average strength. Cloud cover has recently returned to values near average.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s February to April outlook shows a drier summer is expected for the Great Barrier Reef. Predictions are also for near average sea surface temperatures, and an average number of cyclones. The El NiƱo–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) remains neutral, with all ENSO indicators currently within the ENSO-neutral range.

Our table of observations and forecasts provides more detailed information.

Reef health monitoring is ramped up over this time to keep an eye on the marine environment.

Overview of coral reef health reports

Since the start of summer, more than 780 reef health and impact surveys were conducted on 67 reefs within the Marine Park. Impacts (bleaching, disease, predation, damage) were observed in 63 per cent of surveys.

Due to the unprecedented heat stress experienced last summer and a warmer than average winter, corals may still be under stress and therefore more susceptible to bleaching and disease. Some bleaching was recorded on 44 per cent of surveys and coral disease has been observed on 19 per cent of surveys. These recent bleaching and disease observations are considered to be mostly minor impacts, however anecdotal reports of bleaching are increasing, and the situation is being monitored closely.

Crown-of-thorns starfish are being actively culled through a control program (managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and coordinated by the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, with in-water control undertaken from two vessels by the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators). Since 1 July 2016, more than 21,000 starfish have been removed from selected reefs in the Cairns–Cooktown management area.

Latest detailed observed forecast and environmental conditions

Detailed information on sea surface temperature, tropical cyclones, rainfall levels and flood plumes to date.

Read more on Latest detailed observed forecast and environmental conditions

Eye on the Reef program

Eye on the Reef is a monitoring program that enables anyone who visits the Reef to contribute to its long-term protection.

Read more on Eye on the Reef program