Scientists are worried that the recent extreme ocean warming is a sign we haven’t kept up with how quickly the planet is changing. Countries have reported some of the warmest temperatures in recorded history, and the same can be said for the waters from the North Atlantic to Antarctica.
The oceanic heat wave is hitting both sides of North America. Waters off the coast of Florida and the western coasts of the U.S. and Canada are alarmingly warm. The Western Mediterranean, off the coasts of Southern Spain and North Africa, is also warmer than average. The same can be said for the Baltic Sea and the water around New Zealand and Australia.
“This is worrying news for the planet,” said Christopher Hewitt, director of climate services for the World Meteorological Organization, in a news report from the WMO.
Why is the marine heat wave concerning?
Marine heat waves can negatively affect ocean life, the fishing industry, and weather patterns.
These heat waves can cause fish to die on a large scale and coral reefs to undergo “coral bleaching.” The warmer water also changes the behavior patterns of marine life, making it harder for fishermen to locate and catch enough to sustain their livelihood. Alaska was forced to cancel the snow crab harvest in 2022 because the billions of crabs that historically called the Bering Sea home had all but disappeared.
An even more concerning effect of these marine heat waves is the threat they pose to the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current, which is basically a giant global conveyor belt of ocean water.
Water in the AMOC travels from the tropics to the North Atlantic, where it cools and becomes saltier, then sinks deep into the ocean before traveling back south and repeating the process. The AMOC is crucial in regulating global weather patterns, including the jet stream.
If the water in the North Atlantic becomes too warm, the AMOC could slow down or even stop, resulting in extreme changes to the weather around the world. Scientists say this could happen sometime between 2025 and 2095, reported CNN.
What’s being done about marine heat waves?
A group of scientists from around the world is working to better understand marine heat waves, what causes them, their effect on the climate, and their effect on the environment around them. While there’s still a long way to go, a team in Australia was able to predict a marine heat wave several months out.
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