Monitoring and Assessment News

NOAA Coral Reef Watch releases publicly-accessible Light Stress Damage product

On October 26, 2012, NOAA Coral Reef Watch (CRW) released on its website an experimental daily Light Stress Damage product for the greater Caribbean region: This product seeks to improve upon the NOAA CRW operational Degree Heating Weeks (DHW) product (, by combining light data from Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), and sea surface temperature (SST) data from GOES and Polar Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) to continuously track the efficiency of the coral photosystem, providing managers with a more useful measure of coral stress. This version of the Light Stress Damage product is tuned to massive corals of the Caribbean such as those of the genus Montastraea, and may need to be refined to be applicable to other corals. This is a completely new approach to determining thermal stress in corals, which worked efficiently in a pilot project in the Keppel Islands, Great Barrier Reef, Australia, where it provided a considerably more accurate indication of the level of coral stress leading to bleaching than did the DHW product.

The Light Stress Damage product will provide coral reef managers with a daily measure of coral photo-system health, allowing them to gauge corals robustness to all stressors that may impact the photo-system at any time during the year.

The experimental Light Stress Damage product was developed by NOAA Coral Reef Watch in close collaboration with the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, University of Queensland (UQ), and the University of Exeter, with support from the Bleaching Working Group and Remote Sensing Working Group of the Coral Reef Targeted Research Program, Australian Research Council (ARC), and the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. A significant proportion of the future product development is being supported by the ARC, which, in 2011, awarded an Industry Linkage Grant to a consortium including UQ, NOAA CRW, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. One of the largest ARC Linkage Grants ever awarded, the project is aimed at developing a global version of the Light Stress Damage product. For more information on the Light Stress Damage product, please contact [email protected] or visit

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