As seas get hotter, South Florida gets slammed by an ocean heat wave

South Florida is currently facing an ocean heat wave, with ocean temperatures rising five degrees above normal since early July, potentially leading to a variety of ecological issues.

Crisis brewing: An ocean heat wave around Florida could lead to various disasters, including fuelling hurricanes, causing coral bleaching and worsening record heat on land.
* The rise in temperature was triggered by an El Nino weather pattern, combined with the effects of human-induced climate change.
* This temperature increase could reduce oxygen levels in the ocean, potentially impacting fish populations.
* The situation could also endanger spawning grounds for Atlantic bluefin tuna in the northern Gulf of Mexico, and increase land heat records by warming trade winds.

Environmental concerns: The heat wave comes with serious concerns for corals, which have already been struggling due to increased pollution and disease.
* Scientists expect widespread coral bleaching due to the heat wave.
* Coral reefs act as powerful barriers to hurricane storm surges, and their degradation could lead to increased coastal damage.
* Scientists are working on developing heat tolerant coral, but current temperature rises are already outpacing these efforts.

By the numbers: Global ocean temperatures have been on the rise since April, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicting that half the planet’s oceans could undergo heat waves by September.
* Typically, summertime seas around South Florida average 88 degrees but temperatures have been observed in the low 90s.

In Her Words: “Certainly part of that warming is coming from El Nino, which is emerging. But usually there are cool spots associated with El Nino. We’re not seeing any cool spots,” stated Ben Kirtman, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School.

Future implications: While interventions like the development of more heat-tolerant coral are underway, more attention needs to be paid to the root causes of climate change.
* Over the last decade, 90% of additional heat on our planet has been absorbed by the world’s oceans, with 2022 recording the highest global temperature yet.
* Scientists warn that if the root causes are not addressed, we can expect more frequent and severe incidents of marine heat waves.

View original article on NPR

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