"Reef corals from around the world were severely affected from bleaching by the large El Niño event in 1997-1998. Mass bleaching events occur when prolonged high sea-surface temperatures stress corals, causing the expulsion of symbiotic zooxanthellae (plantlike organisms living within the coral tissue). Extended periods of bleaching may lead to an increase in coral mortality. It is estimated that ~16% of the world's corals were destroyed from this single bleaching event in 1998 (Wilkinson, 2000). Unfortunately, coral reef environments along the north coast of Honduras were about to face additional problems. On October 25, 1998, Hurricane Mitch (Figure 1) had formed into the fourth strongest Atlantic hurricane on record; a category 5 hurricane with 180+ mph wind speed and estimated wave heights of 50 feet. Mitch turned out to be the deadliest hurricane since the great hurricane of 1780."
USGS Open File Report 01-133
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