WORLD | May 8, 2023

Ocean temperatures at record-breaking levels

/ Our Today

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Scientists alarmed, scrambling to figure out exactly why

Ocean surface heat is at record-breaking levels with scientists reporting that temperatures began climbing in mid-March and skyrocketed over the course of several weeks.

This, has left scientists scrambling to figure out exactly why temperatures have risen since their peak in April, as they naturally do in the spring. Temperatures are still higher than they have ever been on record for this time of year.

Gregory C. Johnson, an Oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA), which calculates the ocean surface temperature using a network of ships, buoys, satellites and floats, argues that if the temperature holds up, it would represent another milestone.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Professor of Ocean and Climate Dynamics at the University of New South Wales, Australia, Matthew England told CNN that the record may not seem huge, nearly two-tenths of a degree higher than the previous record in 2016. However, given how much heat is needed to warm up this huge body of water, “it’s a massive amount of energy,” England concluded.

Debate on regarding rising temperature

Johnson contends that what’s behind this rapid increase isn’t totally clear yet saying, “these temperatures just rocketed up, people haven’t had a chance to puzzle it all out.” Some scientists are concerned the scale of these new records could mark the start of an alarming trend.

Others say record-breaking temperatures like these are always concerning but to be expected given the human-caused climate crisis. All agree the consequences are likely to be significant.

Warmer oceans bleach coral, kill marine life, increase sea level rise and make the ocean less efficient at absorbing planet-warming pollution – the warmer oceans get, the more the planet will heat up.

One major driver of the heat is believed to be an approaching and potentially strong – El Niño, a natural climate fluctuation associated with warming in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, which has a global heating effect. The world has just emerged from a 3-year La Niña, El Niño’s cooler counterpart, which has helped mask the full impact of global warming.

Since La Niña ended in March, ocean temperatures seem to be on a rebound, scientists say. The World Meteorological Organization said there is about an 80 per cent chance El Niño will develop between July and September.

But part of what has puzzled scientists is temperatures have risen so much before it has even arrived. Some are concerned this suggests climate change might be progressing in ways climate models have not predicted.

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