GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — Experts blame lingering warm water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico for significant bleaching of coral in a marine sanctuary 100 miles off Texas.

The Galveston County Daily News ( ) reports researchers this month determined nearly half of the coral colonies in the East Flower Garden Bank were bleached or paling.

Flower Garden Banks Superintendent G.P. Schmahl says the bleaching, which he attributes to climate change, is caused by the coral's expulsion of the algae that gives it pigmentation. Experts say sea surface temperatures were recorded at more than 86 degrees for 85 days over four months.

The prior worst bleaching event at the sanctuary was in 2005 when about 45 percent of the corals paled.

Schmahl says the water temperature cools into the winter and the algae should return.