Scientists have discovered that Rapture Reef, a renowned coral reef northwest of the Hawaiian Islands, is gone. The reef was once home to many diverse fish and coral species, but is now little more than sand.
Researchers from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration discovered that the reef had disappeared during a 22-day expedition in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
They have determined that Hurricane Walaka, which nearly decimated a nearby island in October 2018, was to blame.
Several species unique to the region, including giant Acropora table corals, were killed during the storm, Earther reports.
Although the Acropora corals exist in other parts of the region, they were abundant near Rapture Reef.
Although scientists expect that the reef will recover, it will take many years for it to regain its former glory. Researchers worry that severe storms such as Hurricane Walaka may become more frequent with a changing climate and threaten more diverse underwater ecosystems in the future.