Global ocean temperatures reaching record highs

El Niño could ramp up global temperatures even faster

Record Sea Surface Temperatures

ORLANDO, Fla. – It is official, the average global ocean temperature has reached an all-time high since satellite records began in the 1960s.

Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the water temperature across the world warmed to 21.1°C, breaking the record of 21.0°C set back on April 1, 2016.

It is also important to note that 2016 was the last time we were under control of a strong El Niño pattern. Recently the Climate Prediction Center officially designated ENSO-neutral conditions, ending a three-year stretch of “cooler” conditions from La Niña. The Climate Prediction Center, though, is giving an 81% chance for El Niño to develop by the peak of hurricane season (August, September, October), which could ramp up global ocean temperatures even faster.

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What does this mean for the 2023 Hurricane Season?

While El Niño conditions usually mean a less active hurricane season, they also tend to raise the global temperature for land and sea.

Credit: Climate Central

In the tropics, warm ocean temperatures play a vital part in the frequency and strength of developing systems during hurricane season. The graph below shows the abnormally warm Atlantic, with 2023 running about 0.4°C warmer than last year, and the warmest on record during this time of the year.

Source: NOAA, Maine Climate Office, Climate Change Institute, University of Maine

The warmer-than-average water temperature was mentioned as a big factor during the release of Colorado State University’s annual hurricane season outlook in mid-April. Forecasters mentioned that the abnormally warm water temperature in the Atlantic Ocean is the reason they didn’t forecast lower numbers.

“Given the conflicting signals between a potentially robust El Niño and an anomalously warm tropical and subtropical Atlantic, the team stresses that there is more uncertainty than normal with this outlook” the CSU researchers reported.

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About the Author:

Candace Campos joined the News 6 weather team in 2015.