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Maritime Heatwaves – A Climate Crisis Unfolds

Maritime Heatwaves – A Climate Crisis Unfolds

Vast stretches of the world’s oceans are experiencing unprecedented and scorching heatwaves – sending alarm bells ringing among oceanographers, coral researchers, and atmospheric scientists globally.

These oceanic hotspots have raised concerns about the accelerating cycle of planetary heating, leading to more severe weather extremes, including intense fires, fiercer storms, and grueling heatwaves.

Oceans Absorb Heat but Reach Their Limit

Oceans have been acting as a buffer, absorbing a staggering 90% of the excess heat emitted into the atmosphere due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases, primarily resulting from human activities such as industrial-scale burning of fossil fuels. However, as these vast expanses of water accumulate heat energy, they eventually release it into the atmosphere, exacerbating the ongoing climate crisis.

Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder, explains, “This is exactly the kind of thing that leads to stronger rain events and fiercer storms. Not necessarily more hurricanes or storms, but often more intense when they do occur.”

The Ocean-Atmosphere Connection

The oceans have been shouldering a substantial burden in mitigating global heating, but there’s a limit to the heat they can absorb. John Clague, a professor emeritus of earth sciences at Simon Fraser University, emphasizes the close connection between the atmosphere and the ocean, stating, “If you have a warming ocean, in general, your atmosphere is warmer as well.”

Record-Breaking Maritime Heatwaves

This year’s ‘maritime’ heatwaves have defied expectations. South Florida witnessed ocean temperatures peaking at around 38 degrees Celsius this summer, leaving swimmers feeling as if they were “taking a bath.” The North Atlantic has also experienced record-breaking temperatures, running six to seven degrees Celsius above normal, a scenario previously unheard of.

Uncharted Territory: The North Atlantic’s Fever

Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Massachusetts, describes the North Atlantic’s condition as “uncharted territory for ocean temperatures,” stating that it’s “literally running a fever.” Additionally, a massive warm water blob in the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of North America, has further raised concerns.

Global Boiling

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres weighed in on the alarming trend, declaring, “climate change is here. It is terrifying. And it is just the beginning. The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.”

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El Niño’s Impending Impact

Adding to the heat concerns is the impending El Niño phenomenon. This natural weather occurrence, linked to warmer waters in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru and Ecuador, is expected to have significant impacts, including warmer and wetter conditions along the west coast of North America.

Climate scientists are particularly apprehensive this year due to the already heightened global temperatures caused by human-induced carbon emissions. Jennifer Francis warns that when in an El Niño phase, “a lot of that heat in the ocean gets put into the atmosphere,” which could further push an already concerning heat situation over the edge. The combination of these factors raises fears of even more weather records being shattered in the coming year, intensifying the urgency for global climate action.

MMJ News Desk
Author: MMJ News Desk

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