Predicting future hotspots in the Red Sea

The research team used statistics to show that some regions of the Red Sea, particularly where there are large coral reefs, have the potential to experience very high sea surface temperatures by the end of the century.

© 2021 Morgan Bennett Smith.

Using high-resolution sea surface temperature (SST) data and advanced statistical methods, KAUST researchers have been able to show that certain areas of the Red Sea are at risk of forming extreme "hotspots" under climate change, which could have disastrous consequences for the sea’s unique coral reefs.

The research also solves some of the challenging problems of deriving meaning from high-resolution observations in complex environmental systems, with broad application for long-term predictions of other climate-dependent extreme conditions.

“The modeling of spatial extremes mostly focuses on low-dimensional situations involving observations at fewer than, say, 100 locations,” says postdoc Arnab Hazra. “We are analyzing satellite-derived SST data at over 16,000 pixels across the Red Sea for the period 1985 to 2015. This is a very large dataset for which existing spatial extremes methods are practically infeasible.”

Read the full article