With the arrival of El Niño, prepare for stronger marine heatwaves

Alistair j. Hobday, Michael t. Burrows, Karen Filbee-Dexter, Neil j. Holbrook, Alex Sen gupta, Dan a. Smale, Kathryn e. Smith, Mads s. Thomsen, Thomas Wernberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
65 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Oceans are warming up, and dangerously so. Since April this year, the average global sea surface temperature has been unusually high and rising; by August, oceans in the Northern Hemisphere had reached record-high temperatures, even surpassing 38 °C in one area around Florida.

These extreme temperatures, fuelled by the climate crisis, have manifested as a series of marine heatwaves — periods of anomalously warm sea temperatures that can last for weeks, months or even years — across the Northern and Southern hemispheres. In some areas around the United Kingdom and Ireland, for example, surface waters in June and July were 4–5 °C warmer than is usually recorded at this time of year. Temperatures are also soaring off the coast of Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico, extending across the tropical Pacific, around Japan, and off the coasts of Ecuador and Peru. Marine heatwaves are more intense, last longer and occur more frequently than they used to. From 1925 to 2016, the number of days classed as experiencing marine heatwaves increased by 54%1.

This makes the concurrent likelihood of a strong El Niño — a climate phenomenon that is typically associated with a rise in global temperatures — particularly worrying.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-41
JournalNature
Volume621
Issue number7977
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2023

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