Ocean temperatures are off the charts, and El Niño is only partly to blame

Ocean temperatures are off the charts, and El Niño is only partly to blame

In a world of worsening climate extremes, a single red line has caught many people’s attention.

The line, which charts sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean, went viral over the weekend for its startling display of unprecedented warming—nearly 2 degrees (1.09 Celsius) above the mean dating back to 1982, the earliest year with comparable data.

Ocean temperatures are so anomalously high that Eliot Jacobson, a retired mathematics professor who created the graph using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, had to “increase the upper bound on the y-axis,” he said.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, but this one was like, ‘Oh my God, look at this,'” Jacobson said of the graph. “What is going on here?”

He and other researchers said there are several factors that may be contributing to the off-the-charts warming, which is occurring alongside other climate woes including record-shattering wildfires in Canada, rapidly declining sea ice in Antarctica and unusually warm temperatures in many parts of the world, not including Southern California.

Underlying everything is human-caused climate change, said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA.

But atop that are a handful of other potential factors, including the early arrival of El Niño; the recent eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano; new regulations around sulfur aerosol emissions or even a dearth of Saharan dust.

“The North Atlantic is record-shatteringly warm right now,” Swain said during a briefing Monday. “There has never been any day in observed history where the entire North Atlantic has been nearly as warm as it is right now, at any time of year.”

Nearly all of the Atlantic basin is experiencing anomalous warmth, including the Irminger Sea southeast of Greenland, the western Mediterranean Sea, and the tropics “all the way from Africa to at least the Caribbean,” said Gregory Johnson, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

Read more at: phys.org
Photo: phys.org, Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.