A new set of satellite images is convincing scientists that severe storms can carry river sediment far into Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
In late January, heavy monsoonal rains triggered flooding across northern Queensland. The floodwaters carried heavy loads of sediment along rivers and out to sea. The sediment plume eventually dispersed as far as 130 kilometers into ocean, beyond the outer reef. Sediment plumes can inject agricultural pollutants into reef systems, as well as limit oxygen and light for coral. As the number of earth-observing satellites increase, scientists are better able to monitor sediment plumes as they occur.