Newly released data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States shows that the temperature of the world’s ocean surface has reached an all-time high since satellite records began. This unprecedented rise in temperature is causing marine heatwaves around the world. The data reveals that the average temperature at the ocean’s surface has been 21.1 °C since the start of April, beating the previous high of 21 °C recorded in 2016.
The recent increase in ocean temperatures is a major concern for climate scientists, who believe that heat is now rising to the ocean surface. For the past three years, La Niña conditions have dominated the vast tropical Pacific, suppressing temperatures and reducing the effect of rising greenhouse gas emissions. However, scientists have warned that this cooling influence has come to an end and the El Niño pattern in the tropical Pacific could increase the risk of extreme weather conditions later this year.
According to Dr Mike McPhaden, a senior research scientist at NOAA, “Now that the triple dip La Niña has come to an end, we are likely seeing the climate change signal coming through loud and clear.” During El Niño periods, ocean temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific are warmer than usual, pushing up global temperatures. The NOAA data reveals that the second-hottest globally averaged ocean temperatures coincided with the El Niño that ran from 2014 to 2016.
The rising ocean temperature has far-reaching consequences for marine ecosystems and can cause devastating effects on fish and other marine species. Additionally, warmer ocean temperatures can lead to more frequent and severe tropical storms, hurricanes, and cyclones, affecting coastal communities worldwide.
As the world continues to grapple with the impacts of climate change, the latest data from NOAA underscores the need for urgent and decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of rising temperatures on our planet.
The temperature data of the world’s ocean surface is primarily driven by satellite observations. However, to ensure accuracy, the data is also verified with measurements from ships and buoys. It is important to note that the data does not include the polar regions.
A concerning trend that has emerged is that more than 90% of the additional heat caused by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, has been absorbed by the ocean. Last year, a study showed that the amount of heat accumulating in the ocean was accelerating and penetrating deeper, providing fuel for extreme weather events.
Current observations indicate that moderate to strong marine heatwaves are present in various regions worldwide, including the southern Indian Ocean, the south Atlantic, off north-west Africa, around New Zealand, off the north-east of Australia, and the west of Central America.
While local weather conditions may drive marine heatwaves, studies have shown that their frequency and intensity have increased as the oceans have warmed – a trend that is predicted to worsen with human-caused global heating. For more information on the topic, please refer to the original blog post from The Guardian available at their website.