(Photo: Dorothea Bender-Champ for ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)

The Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its worst bleaching ever

On Wednesday, scientists in Australia sounded their most urgent alarm yet, saying that half of the reef, which stretches for over 1,400 miles along the country’s eastern coast, was dead or dying.

The cause? Elevated temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, made worse by global warming. 

“Our estimate at the moment is that close to 50 percent of the coral is already dead or dying,” Terry Hughes, the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, told Reuters.

The situation is slightly better in the southern portion of the reef, though if the bleaching continues, the scientists said, it was approaching utter disaster. 

“In the northern Great Barrier Reef, it’s like 10 cyclones have come ashore all at once,” Hughes said.