Higher than average ocean temperatures have put Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef on the brink of a severe coral bleaching event, the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has warned on Tuesday.
Recording an increase of 1.0 to 2.5 degrees centigrade in recent weeks, AIMS Oceanographer Craig Steinberg said the World Heritage Listed Area is now facing an enormous threat.
"Our knowledge and long-term understanding of northern Australian waters tell us warming oceans place enormous pressure on the reef's ecology," he explained.
"If heatwave conditions persist or worsen, we can expect corals to exhibit stress and experience some level of regional bleaching."
Causing the corals to expel algae from their tissue and turn white, the process can then lead to stagnant growth rates, decreased reproductive capacity, increased susceptibility to diseases and a declines in genetic and species diversity.
Using satellites, weather stations and even an in-water autonomous robot to monitor ocean temperatures in real time, there is also a network of 170 electronic temperature loggers which have been deployed across the 350,000 square km reef.
"We have re-deployed an Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) underwater glider to areas of concern in the waters north-east of Townsville," Steinberg said.
"With its on-board sensors, the glider provides our scientists with information about ocean properties at different depths of the water column including temperature and light, to help explain any observed levels of coral bleaching."
"Knowing how deep the warm surface layer is, can help determine the depth corals are likely to experience heat stress."
Describing the situation as being "on a knife's edge," AIMS Chief Executive Officer Dr. Paul Hardisty said the underlying trend of ocean warming means the chance of coral bleaching events has greatly increased over recent years.
"The next major El Niño event, which typically results in warmer sea temperatures on the reef at this critical time of year, poses a real risk for the reef. We need to be prepared as oceans continue to warm," he said.
"The scale and severity of the bleaching damage in 2016 and 2017 highlighted the critical threat warming ocean temperatures pose to coral reefs."
Typically taking around a decade for corals to recover from a bleaching event, Hardisty said without a reduction of global temperatures, the health of the reef is expected to continue to decline.
"If we want to safeguard coral reefs for the future, we also need to begin developing options for intervening on the Great Barrier Reef to help it cope better with climate change, in conjunction with reducing global greenhouse gas emissions," he said.
Around 70,000 people packed out Australia's ANZ stadium on Sunday, to show their support for communities that have been devastated by the country's recent bushfire crisis.
Selling out in just 24 hours after tickets went on sale, the Fire Fight Australia concert was headlined by international rock giant Queen and featured an array of local and international artists including 5 Seconds of Summer, Alice Cooper, Amy Shark, Grinspoon, Jessica Mauboy, Ronan Keaing and Michael Bublé.
Thanking Australia's professional and volunteer firefighters, comedian Celeste Barber who hosted the event said, "you will never know how grateful we are."
"Our volunteers across this entire country, they are the ones who saved us," Barber told the crowd.
"They are the ones who cancel holidays to stay here and look after us, and I will speak now very confidently on behalf of a nation when I say to those volunteers, thank you."
Raising over 9 million Australian dollars (6 million U.S. dollars) for people in need, Barber said, "As Aussies, we band together because we have to look after each other."
With a brother-in-law currently serving as a volunteer firefighter in Queensland State, Irish pop star Ronan Keating told the 7 Network it was one show he just had to be a part of.
"I wanted people in Australia to know that we heard you, and that you weren't alone," he said.
"That was really important to me, that I could be here and perform or do whatever just to stand in solidarity."
Donations from the mammoth 10-hour gig will now go to Red Cross disaster relief and recovery fund, rural and regional fire services and animal welfare group, the RSPCA.
A man in Australia is lucky to be alive on Tuesday, after spending the night clinging to a tree in floodwaters.
Battered by a low pressure system bringing record rainfall and damaging winds, several drought-affected, bone-dry rivers near the township of Bega in New South Wales (NSW) State were instantly turned into roaring rapids in a matter of hours.
Walking near the Brogo River at around 6:00 p.m. local time on Monday, the man was quickly swept away by the rising floodwaters.
Desperately trying to stay afloat, he grabbed onto a tree where he stayed until 4:00 a.m. this morning, until a local resident spotted the man and called for help.
"He wasn't in great condition when we pulled him out," local State Emergency Service Commander Michelle De Frisbom told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"He was suffering the effect of hypothermia ... even though it wasn't that cold."
"He had been in the water for quite a number of hours ... he is one very lucky man."
Able to be helped from the water by boat, the man was just one of around 260 flood rescues that have taken place on Australia’s east coast over the past few days.
Forecasters predict more severe weather could strike later in the week, putting more pressure on emergency services.
Heavy rains lashed parts of the wildfire and drought-stricken Australian east coast on Friday, bringing some flooding in Sydney and relief to firefighters still dealing with dozens of blazes in New South Wales.
New South Wales is the state hardest hit by wildfires that have killed at least 33 and destroyed more than 3,000 homes in an unprecedented fire season that began late in a record-dry 2019.
New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said he was optimistic the rain will help extinguish some blazes over the coming days. He said there were still 42 fires burning in the state, with 17 of those not contained.
"The rain is good for business and farms as well as being really good for quenching some of these fires we've been dealing with for many, many months," he said.
"We don't want to see lots of widespread damage and disruption from flooding, but it is certainly a welcome change to the relentless campaign of hot, dry weather," he added.
Firefighters can't contain major blazes across the southeast without heavy rain. The rain forecast to move southwest from the northeastern coast over the next week would be the first substantial soakings to reach dozens of fires that have spread for weeks.
Heavy rain and flash-flooding warnings extend across most of the New South Wales coast. Authorities say they rescued six people stranded from flood water in New South Wales since Wednesday.
Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale announced on Monday he is quitting politics to give a new leader of his environmentally-focused minority party an opportunity to expose government failings during the nation's wildfire crisis.
Di Natale's surprise resignation means that both the Greens and the government's junior coalition party, the Nationals, will elect new leaders when Parliament resumes for the first time this year on Tuesday.
Di Natale, a 49-year-old senator, said there was no single reason why be had decided to resign on Monday as party leader. He listed among the factors behind his decision his desire to spend more time with his family and his concern about leaving his wildfire-prone home in Victoria state to sit in Parliament.
"We have as a nation just endured one of the most horrific events in the nation's history," Di Natale told reporters at Parliament House, referring to wildfires that have killed at least 33 people and destroyed more than 3,000 homes since September.
"This is now an opportunity for a new leader to step up at a time when the nation's focus is on this place and to really demonstrate that we are a party brimming with talent, where a new leader can stamp their authority over a government that has been catastrophic in their failures to respond to this horrendous crisis," Di Natale added.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison's conservative government has been accused of being too slow to respond to the wildfire crisis and of not doing enough to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie resigned from Cabinet on Sunday for breaching ministerial rules by failing to declare she was a member of a gun club that she gave a government grant of 36,000 Australian dollars ($24,100).
Her resignation means Nationals lawmakers will meet to elect a new deputy party leader around the same time that the Greens choose their own new leader.
But former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce said on Monday he would nominate for his old job if both the positions of party leader and deputy leader are put to a vote.
Nationals leader Michael McCormack said he did not expect his position would be put to a vote, but was confident of defeating any challenge.
Whoever leads the Nationals becomes deputy prime minister and acts as prime minister when Morrison is overseas.
Both the Nationals leader and deputy leader are also guaranteed seats in Cabinet.
Joyce had not been a minister since he quit as Nationals leader in 2018 over controversy surrounding him having a child with a former staffer and allegations that he had sexually harassed another woman.
The first day of Parliament on Tuesday will be dominated by debates about the unprecedented wildfire that is devastating Australia's southeast.
Di Natale said he would quit the Senate once his party had selected a replacement senator.