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Ocean temperatures set world record

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posted on Aug, 21 2009 @ 09:14 AM

In hot water: World sets ocean temperature record

Steve Kramer spent an hour and a half swimming in the ocean Sunday — in Maine. The water temperature was 72 degrees — more like Ocean City, Md., this time of year. And Ocean City's water temp hit 88 degrees this week, toasty even by Miami Beach standards.

Kramer, 26, who lives in the seaside town of Scarborough, said it was the first time he's ever swam so long in Maine's coastal waters. "Usually, you're in five minutes and you're out," he said.

It's not just the ocean off the Northeast coast that is super-warm this summer. July was the hottest the world's oceans have been in almost 130 years of record-keeping.

The average water temperature worldwide was 62.6 degrees, according to the National Climatic Data Center, the branch of the U.S. government that keeps world weather records. That was 1.1 degree higher than the 20th century average, and beat the previous high set in 1998 by a couple hundredths of a degree. The coolest recorded ocean temperature was 59.3 degrees in December 1909.

Meteorologists said there's a combination of forces at work this year: A natural El Nino system just getting started on top of worsening man-made global warming, and a dash of random weather variations. The resulting ocean heat is already harming threatened coral reefs. It could also hasten the melting of Arctic sea ice and help hurricanes strengthen.

The Gulf of Mexico, where warm water fuels hurricanes, has temperatures dancing around 90. Most of the water in the Northern Hemisphere has been considerably warmer than normal. The Mediterranean is about three degrees warmer than normal. Higher temperatures rule in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The heat is most noticeable near the Arctic, where water temperatures are as much as 10 degrees above average. The tongues of warm water could help melt sea ice from below and even cause thawing of ice sheets on Greenland, said Waleed Abdalati, director of the Earth Science and Observation Center at the University of Colorado.

Breaking heat records in water is more ominous as a sign of global warming than breaking temperature marks on land, because water takes longer to heat up and does not cool off as easily as land.

"This warm water we're seeing doesn't just disappear next year; it'll be around for a long time," said climate scientist Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria in British Columbia. It takes five times more energy to warm water than land.

The warmer water "affects weather on the land," Weaver said. "This is another yet really important indicator of the change that's occurring."

Georgia Institute of Technology atmospheric science professor Judith Curry said water is warming in more places than usual, something that has not been seen in more than 50 years.

Add to that an unusual weather pattern this summer where the warmest temperatures seem to be just over oceans, while slightly cooler air is concentrated over land, said Deke Arndt, head of climate monitoring at the climate data center.

The pattern is so unusual that he suggested meteorologists may want to study that pattern to see what's behind it.

The effects of that warm water are already being seen in coral reefs, said C. Mark Eakin, coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's coral reef watch. Long-term excessive heat bleaches colorful coral reefs white and sometimes kills them.

Bleaching has started to crop up in the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands — much earlier than usual. Typically, bleaching occurs after weeks or months of prolonged high water temperatures. That usually means September or October in the Caribbean, said Eakin. He found bleaching in Guam Wednesday. It's too early to know if the coral will recover or die. Experts are "bracing for another bad year," he said.

The problems caused by the El Nino pattern are likely to get worse, the scientists say.

An El Nino occurs when part of the central Pacific warms up, which in turn changes weather patterns worldwide for many months. El Nino and its cooling flip side, La Nina, happen every few years.

During an El Nino, temperatures on water and land tend to rise in many places, leading to an increase in the overall global average temperature. An El Nino has other effects, too, including dampening Atlantic hurricane formation and increasing rainfall and mudslides in Southern California.

Warm water is a required fuel for hurricanes. What's happening in the oceans "will add extra juice to the hurricanes," Curry said.

Hurricane activity has been quiet for much of the summer, but that may change soon, she said. Hurricane Bill quickly became a major storm and the National Hurricane Center warned that warm waters are along the path of the hurricane for the next few days.

Hurricanes need specific air conditions, so warmer water alone does not necessarily mean more or bigger storms, said James Franklin, chief hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.


On the Net:

National Climatic Data Center on July 2009:

NOAA's coastal water temperature guide:

Yikes and double yikes! I was on the fence about all this climate change business. Now I'm thinking we are in deep #. I'd like to hear what all the global warming naysayers have to say about this.

posted on Aug, 21 2009 @ 09:17 AM
So according to the article the previous high was in 1998. Now it's 2009. Sounds like a cycle of nature occurring every 10-11 years. Could also have something to do with Tropical Storm Bill headed straight for Maine?

posted on Aug, 21 2009 @ 09:25 AM
reply to post by jjkenobi

This is globally not caused by Bill (hurricane).

he global ocean surface temperature for July 2009 was the warmest on record, 0.59°C (1.06°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.5°F). This broke the previous July record set in 1998. The July ocean surface temperature departure from the long-term average equals June 2009 value, which was also a record.

posted on Aug, 21 2009 @ 09:31 AM
The Atlantic Current is weaker this year than ever before, and in actuality, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic along the East side of Florida are way cooler than the last few years!

My wife and I have been talking about the local Ocean temps all summer. We have never seen them take so long to get up to the 90 degree range, and with the very light storm season, we figured they were related.

The mouth of the St. Johns River at the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville is still in the upper 70 degree range! I have never seen that in the 10 years I have been in Florida!

So, I guess our Warmer water just moved up the coast to Maine and Maryland, probably due to the weaker current not dragging cool water southward? Reminds me of the movie "Day After Tomorrow"!!

I wonder if we are in for a very hard winter????

posted on Aug, 21 2009 @ 09:44 AM

Originally posted by sad_eyed_lady
Yikes and double yikes! I was on the fence about all this climate change business. Now I'm thinking we are in deep #. I'd like to hear what all the global warming naysayers have to say about this.

I would say that the majority of the 'naysayers' agree that climate change is occurring but the idea that it's man made is ridiculous.

If you took all of the money out of the global warming debate it would cease to be a political issue.

posted on Aug, 21 2009 @ 12:05 PM
Earth's inner cores [one iron and one crystal] are spinning faster as we head toward the galactic center. This is causing the oceans to warm.... that theory is the one I believe.

posted on Aug, 21 2009 @ 12:55 PM
reply to post by sad_eyed_lady

A combination of factors, for sure; volcanism in the Arctic region, and along the "ring of fire", undoubtedly have effected the water temps. No doubt about the climate changing, but man's effect is minimal. IMO

Climate is cyclic, cooler periods tend to give way to warmer periods, naturally.
It has been happening since before man, and will continue after man becomes a part of the fossil record.
Not much we can do about it, except adapt...

posted on Aug, 21 2009 @ 01:00 PM
It's funny how when I hear about things like this, it just reminds me of the movie The Day After Tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how the planet corrects itself. I suppose there could be far worse scenarios than what that movie showed. Take your pick: A frozen world or a superheated one.

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