By Murray Cornish
ABC News Online,
The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) weather monitoring stations show water temperatures have begun to rise already without having reached their average winter minimums.
Climatologist Dr Janice Lough says it could signal a very bad year for coral bleaching.
"Just looking at the records from the weather stations, some of them have been going for about 20 years and this year seems to be particularly unusual that some of the stations didn't get down to their usual minimum and they all seem to be starting to warm over the last week or two quite rapidly," she said.
"Corals are going to be at risk round about February which is when they normally reach their maximum temperatures from coral bleaching - if we actually go into the warm summer season already warmer than usual then that's going to increase the risk of coral bleaching actually happening."