The search for survivors in a post-nuclear reefscape
The United States tested its largest thermonuclear bomb in 1954 over Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, generating radioactive fallout downwind, including over remote Rongelap Atoll.
We surveyed protected reefs of Rongelap and neighboring Ailinginae Atoll, finding extremely variable coral condition and widespread evidence of recent ocean warming.
Variation in reef condition underscored an increasing need to assist diver-based surveys with improved satellite and aircraft imaging to assess the health of the coral reefs.
Climate change mitigation is paramount to coral reef survival, as increasing ocean temperature could trump earlier nuclear radiation as a driver of reef degradation in the Marshall Islands.