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Forecasting Change: More ocean heat waves causing a wide range of negative impacts

Ocean heat waves increasing over last century

Ocean heat wave impacts
Ocean heat wave impacts

ORLANDO, Fla. – As the global temperatures warm, we have taken note of “ocean heatwaves.” An ocean heat wave, also known as a marine heatwave, occurs when ocean water temperatures are much warmer than normal for at least five days in a row. By warmer than normal, we mean a temperature that is above the 90th percentile. In this graphic, you can see that ocean heat waves have exploded in the last century.

Ocean heat waves are becoming more common
Ocean heat waves are becoming more common

The impacts of warming are widespread. Of course, the first thing you think of is the hurricane season, but marine life also is threatened. The heat stress on marine life leads to death, the loss of sea birds, the collapse of kelp forest, and coral bleaching.

Sea surface temperature anomalies
Sea surface temperature anomalies

Right now, as we have seen in the last few Forecasting Change stories, the heat is on! The July 2020 sea surface temperature anomalies are above normal and not looking like they will cool anytime soon.


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