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Island in the Stream

Jarvis Island is a tiny dot in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean right on the equator. This uninhabited 1¾-square-mile island rises barely 20 feet out of the ocean. But it's an obstacle in the path of the Equatorial Undercurrent, which shunts nutrient-rich waters toward the surface that nourish lush coral reefs on the island's west side. Those reefs suffered severe bleaching in 2016 when an El Niño shut down easterly trade winds, raised surface water temperatures across the Pacific, and slowed the Equatorial Undercurrent. WHOI scientist Anne Cohen is investigating the history of El Niño-related bleaching and recovery on Jarvis Island and other reefs in the central Pacific. (Illustration by Eric S. Taylor, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution )


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