Quantcast
Climate
Record-setting bloom of toxic algae in North Pacific in 2015. NOAA

Marine Heatwaves Now Longer, Hotter and More Intense

It's not just land-based heatwaves that have become more intense and frequent. Marine heatwaves are similarly on the rise as a direct result of warming oceans, according to a new international study.

The research, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, shows that from 1925-2016, the frequency of marine heatwaves increased on average by 34 percent and the length of each heatwave increased by 17 percent. In all, the number of marine heatwave days has increased 54 percent per year.


These bursts of ocean heat can have widespread effects on underwater ecosystems, marine life and coastal communities.

As a press release for the study detailed, a 2011 marine heatwave in Western Australia shifted ecosystems from being dominated by kelp to being dominated by seaweed. That shift remained even after water temperatures returned to normal.

Then in 2012, a marine heatwave in the Gulf of Maine caused an increase in lobsters but resulted in a crash in prices that seriously hurt the industry's profits.

Warm waters in the North Pacific from 2014-2016 led to fishery closures, mass strandings and harmful algal blooms along coastlines. In 2015, the U.S. West Coast's mysterious "blob" of water, up to 4°C warmer than the surrounding Pacific, became tied to unusual weather across the country.

Another intense marine heatwave in 2016 off Tasmania led to disease outbreaks and impacted the region's oyster and salmon industries.

"Our research also found that from 1982 there was a noticeable acceleration of the trend in marine heatwaves," said lead author Dr. Eric Oliver, a researcher at Dalhousie University in Canada.

"While some of us may enjoy the warmer waters when we go swimming, these heatwaves have significant impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity, fisheries, tourism and aquaculture. There are often profound economic consequences that go hand in hand with these events."

The researchers combined satellite data with a century-long range of datasets, taken from ships and various land-based measuring stations, to determine the trend of intensifying marine heatwaves. They eliminated natural warming variables caused by the El Niño Southern Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation to come to their conclusion.

"There was a clear relationship between the rise in global average sea-surface temperatures and the increase in marine heatwaves, much the same as we see increases in extreme heat events related to the increase in global average temperatures," said co-author and University of New South Wales scientist Dr. Lisa Alexander.

"With more than 90 percent of the heat from human-caused global warming going into our oceans, it is likely marine heatwaves will continue to increase. The next key stage for our research is to quantify exactly how much they may change," she said.

"The results of these projections are likely to have significant implications for how our environment and economies adapt to this changing world."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Popular
Pxhere

Trump Power Plant Plan Will Significantly Increase CO2 Pollution

The Trump administration is expected on Tuesday to propose a major rollback of the Clean Power Plan, President Obama's signature climate policy.

The replacement will relax rules for coal-fired plants and will very likely increase air pollution and planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Global warming in Iceland. Getty Images

Arctic Warming Amplifies Extreme Weather Events Globally: Wildfires, Flooding Likely to Be More Severe

Warming in the Arctic is causing the jet stream, a belt of air held "up" around the Arctic by the temperature difference between the Arctic and warmer climates, to weaken and slow.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
DWalker44 / Getty Images

Tons of Plastic Trash Enter the Great Lakes Every Year – Where Does It Go?

By Matthew J. Hoffman

Awareness is rising worldwide about the scourge of ocean plastic pollution, from Earth Day 2018 events to the cover of National Geographic magazine. But few people realize that similar concentrations of plastic pollution are accumulating in lakes and rivers. One recent study found microplastic particles—fragments measuring less then five millimeters—in globally sourced tap water and beer brewed with water from the Great Lakes.

Keep reading... Show less
Science
Gorancakmazovic / Getty Images

Blotting Out the Sun to Save the Earth? Seriously?

By Jeff Turrentine

Science fiction doesn't always stay fictional. Space exploration, robots and self-driving cars are just a few of the modern-day wonders that once existed only as plot devices or fantastical theories. Our capacity for turning science-fictional notions into the stuff of everyday life has grown with each new generation of scientists and microchips, such that more and more ideas previously deemed too far "out there" are now actually here, or at least technologically plausible.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Flames of the Simi Valley fire ravage a Southern California mountain side on Oct. 29, 2012. U.S. Air Force / Senior Master Sgt. Dennis W. Goff

'Hothouse Earth' Co-Author Says 'People Will Look Back on 2018 as the Year When Climate Reality Hit'

By Jessica Corbett

Amid a flurry of "breathless headlines" about warnings in a new study that outlines a possible "Hothouse Earth" scenario, one co-author optimistically expressed his belief that "people will look back on 2018 as the year when climate reality hit."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Kodachrome25 / Getty Images

Roof-to-Garden: How to Irrigate with Rainwater

By Brian Barth

The average American household uses about 320 gallons of water per day, a third for irrigation and other outdoor uses. Collecting the water flowing down your downspouts in rainstorms so you can use it to irrigate in dry periods is often touted as a simple way to cut back. But setting up a functional rainwater irrigation system—beyond the ubiquitous 55-gallon barrels under the downspout, which won't irrigate much more than a flower bed or two—is a fairly complicated DIY project.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
A family wears face masks as they walk through the smoke filled streets after the Thomas wildfire swept through Ventura, California on Dec. 6, 2017. MARK RALSTON / AFP / Getty Images

How to Protect Your Children From Wildfire Smoke

By Cecilia Sierra-Heredia

We're very careful about what our kids eat, but what about the air they breathe?

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Hero Images / Getty Images

Study: Children Have Better Nutrition When They Live Near Forests

Spending time in nature is known to boost mental and emotional health. Now, a new global study has found that children in 27 developing nations tend to have more diverse diets and better nutrition when they live near forests.

The paper, published Wednesday in Science Advances, provides evidence that forest conservation can be an important tool in promoting better nutrition in developing countries, rather than clear-cutting forests for more farmland.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!