All posts tagged: Earth’s oceans

We’ve Made a Cosmic Choice for Earth’s Oceans

We’ve Made a Cosmic Choice for Earth’s Oceans

Even after nearly three months of winter, the oceans of the Northern Hemisphere are disturbingly warm. Last summer’s unprecedented temperatures—remember the “hot tub” waters off the coast of Florida?—have simmered down to a sea-surface average around 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the North Atlantic, but even that is unprecedented for this time of year. The alarming trend stretches around the world: 41 percent of the global ocean experienced heat waves in January. The temperatures are also part of a decades-long hot streak in the oceans. “What we used to consider extreme is no longer an extreme today,” Dillon Amaya, a research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Physical Sciences Laboratory, told me. The situation is expected to worsen. Research suggests that by the end of the century, much of the ocean could be in a permanent heat wave relative to historical thresholds, depending on the quantity of greenhouse gases that humans emit. Many other changes will unfold alongside those hot ocean temperatures: stronger hurricanes, rising sea levels, unmanageable conditions for marine life. Our seas, …

Earth’s Hot Oceans Are a Cosmic Tragedy

Earth’s Hot Oceans Are a Cosmic Tragedy

The ocean off the coast of southern Florida is having a long, hot summer. For weeks, surface temperatures hovered around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, before dropping to the 80s last week. The world’s third-largest barrier reef is dying, and scientists are fishing out coral samples and bringing them to the cool safety of laboratory tanks. One spot along the coastline hit triple-digit temperatures last month, conditions you would expect inside a hot tub. Some coastal Floridians skipped their usual dips in the ocean because it didn’t seem appealing anymore. Marine heat waves—periods of persistent and anomalously high temperatures of surface seawater—have materialized in other parts of the world too. The surface temperatures of about 44 percent of Earth’s oceans are currently experiencing extreme heat, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Some of that warming is to be expected, because 2023 is an El Niño year. But “all of these marine heat waves are made warmer because of climate change,” Dillon Amaya, a research scientist at NOAA’s Physical Sciences Laboratory, told me. June was already …