The ocean’s surface heat is at an all-time high. Scientists were scrambling to figure out why temperatures began to rise in the middle of March and continued to rise rapidly for several weeks.
Despite the fact that temperatures have decreased since their peak in April, as is typical for the spring, they are still higher than any time on record for this time of year.
Gregory C. Johnson, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who uses a network of ships, buoys, satellites, and floats to calculate the ocean surface temperature, described it as “remarkable.”
In spite of the fact that it’s as yet primer information, assuming it holds up, he said, “this is another achievement.”
Although the record is only nearly two tenths of a degree higher than the previous record set in 2016, Matthew England, a professor of ocean and climate dynamics at the University of New South Wales in Australia, told CNN that the amount of heat required to warm this enormous body of water “is a massive amount of energy.”
Early 2023 saw rapid ocean warming
Sea surface temperatures arrived at record highs toward the beginning of April, outperforming a past pinnacle set in 2016, as per fundamental evaluations by the US Public Maritime and Climatic Organization (NOAA).
What’s behind this quick increment isn’t as yet thoroughly clear. ” These temperatures just soared up, individuals haven’t gotten an opportunity to perplex everything out,” Johnson said.
The scale of these new records may signal the beginning of an alarming trend, according to some scientists. Others assert that record-breaking temperatures like these are always cause for concern but are to be expected given the climate crisis caused by humans.
All concur that significant consequences are likely. Coral bleaches, marine life dies, sea levels rise, and the ocean’s ability to absorb pollution that contributes to global warming decreases as temperatures rise.
The return of El Niño
An approaching and possibly strong El Nio, a natural climate variation that is associated with warming in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Oceans and has a global heating effect, is thought to be one major driver of the heat.
The world has just come out of a three-year La Nia, which was cooler than El Nio and helped hide the full impact of global warming. According to scientists, ocean temperatures appear to be rebounding since the end of La Nia in March.
Johnson stated, “It’s a little bit like we’ve had the freezer door open for a while and it has helped to cool the planet.” Background temperatures, on the other hand, have continued to rise even while that freezer has been open. Everything is hotter than before now that the freezer has been closed.
Large swaths of ocean were warmer than average in spring 2023
Recent research indicates that following La Nia, the eastern Pacific off the coast of South America is particularly warming, as are parts of the North Atlantic and North Pacific to a lesser extent.
On Wednesday, the World Meteorological Organization stated that there is approximately an 80 percent chance that El Nio will emerge between July and September. However, the fact that temperatures have risen so much prior to the arrival of the storm has puzzled scientists.
Some are concerned this recommends environmental change may be advancing in manners environment models have not anticipated.
“An El Niño occasion is blending, however it’s likely too soon to fault that as the reason,” teacher Mike Meredith, science pioneer at the English Antarctic Review, told CNN. ” However, we must determine whether this is an isolated extreme high or the beginning of an even more troubling trend by determining the cause of the ocean surface temperature peak.
Deeper ocean heat
One way to understand the state of the oceans around the world is through surface temperatures.
However, to comprehend where the world is going in the long haul, it’s vital to likewise check out at the more profound sea temperatures, said Sarah Purkey, an associate teacher at the Scripps Foundation of Oceanography.
In the world’s oceans, thousands of floats analyze temperature from the surface to the deepest waters and report the results.
“Sea heat content has been on an exceptionally consistent, in some cases speeding up, ascent,” Purkey told CNN, due to human-caused an Earth-wide temperature boost. Around 25% of carbon pollution and 90% of the world’s excess heat are absorbed by the oceans.
In 2022, the seas were the hottest on record for the fourth year straight.
A study that came out in April found that the climate system was getting hotter faster, which was bad news for the oceans.
It found the pace of progress in how much intensity the Earth has gathered has dramatically increased throughout recent many years – and the greater part of that is going into the sea.
Karina von Schuckmann, an oceanographer at Mercator Ocean International in France and a co-author of the study, stated, “There’s a really urgent need to understand this because if it’s part of a long term trend, this is really highly concerning.”
The lower concentration of aerosols in the atmosphere might be one surprising reason. In 2020, guidelines were acquainted with limit how much sulfur in the fuel ships utilized – a strategy pointed toward tending to air contamination.
Air pollution not only has a significant impact on human health, but it also serves as an artificial sunscreen and deflects sunlight away from Earth. Von Schuckmann suggested that the absence of aerosols might have increased the temperature.
Worrying impacts of ocean warming
If ocean temperatures continue to rise at an alarming rate, the consequences could be catastrophic, regardless of the causes.
We are shielded from the full effects of the climate crisis by the oceans. Purkey stated, “We should be grateful to the ocean for taking up most of what we have done to the climate system; otherwise, we would be experiencing effects that are actually 100 times greater than what we are currently experiencing.”
However, this role of buffering comes at a high price.
Coral reef bleaching and toxic algae blooms are linked to warmer oceans. These blooms can drain oxygen from the water and choke marine life, sometimes necessitating the closure of fisheries. Additionally, warmer waters are less capable of absorbing carbon, leaving more in the atmosphere and contributing to further global warming. Sea level rises as water warms, not only because ice sheets melt but also because water expands as it warms.
Hurricanes and cyclones are accelerated by surface warming.
Meridional overturning currents, also known as ocean “conveyor belts” that transport surface water to the deeper oceans and regulate the planet’s energy balance, are of particular concern to scientists. Purkey stated, “It’s probably the most important thing to keep an eye on.”
She stated that the ocean’s capacity to absorb the excess heat produced by humans will be determined by the strength of the currents. And, for instance, if the Atlantic Ocean’s overturning current weakens or even collapses, the results could be catastrophic, leading to extremely cold winters in Western Europe, rapid sea level rise, and disruptions to tropical monsoons.
Even though they remain elevated for this time of year, ocean surface temperatures have begun to fall for the time being.
It is evident that records will continue to be broken as the climate crisis worsens, as scientists continue to investigate the causes of record ocean warming.
“This is somewhat of a reminder, I trust, for everyone universally that this direction of warming that we’re on won’t stop until we bring our outflows right down to nothing,” Britain said.