Marine Heatwaves Have Been Reported Around North America
According to a recent study, heat waves at the ocean’s bottom can be more severe and linger longer than at the sea surface. Much like the proverb “out of sight, out of mind,” this period of harsh circumstances in the deep ocean has gone unnoticed for the longest time. Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have first assessed marine heatwaves around North America in the productive continental shelf waters.
Marine heatwaves at the sea surface have been studied over the year, but this is the first time researchers from NOAA have been able to go deeper into the ocean surface. This has helped in understanding the pattern of these severe occurrences that are developing along shallow seafloor as over the past ten years, marine heatwaves have become 50% more frequent.
In recent years, scientists have increased their efforts to investigate marine heatwaves over the water column using the limited data available. The ocean has absorbed over 90% of the surplus heat from global warming, rising by about 1.5 degrees Celsius during the last century. It is too soon to say if climate change will significantly influence bottom marine heatwaves in the same way it will on surface heatwaves.
Ocean circulation pattern modifications may also be an essential factor. Measuring sea surface temperature can help detect many physical and biological ocean features of delicate marine ecosystems that will, in turn, help in conserving these critical marine species.
What will be the effect?
Marine Heatwaves (MHW), usually referred to as warm ocean temperature extremes, significantly affect the global health of marine ecosystems. Heat waves have the potential to alter the habitat patterns of marine animals. Marine heat waves also have the risk of unfavorable human-wildlife contact and hinder the production of primary products.
Recently observed marine heatwaves around North America are not a new phenomenon. Marine Heat waves from 2013-2016, known by the name “The Blob,” has warmed a wide swath of surface waters over the northeastern Pacific. The Blob has damaged the commercial fisheries by upsetting the marine ecosystems along the west coast and lowering the returns of Salmon. This heat wave has also sparked a surge in studies on the excessive warming of ocean surface waters. As a result, significant effort has been spent studying, tracking, and forecasting these occurrences’ time, intensity, duration, and physical causes.
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