World ocean temperature records have soared to a new high over the past year, and climate change is the main suspect.

The Earth’s Oceans Have Been the Warmest Since 1940

 Warm Seas
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Justin Rowlat, speaking to The BBC, weighed in on data produced by the European Union’s Climate service, Copernicus. 

Rowlat noted that every day for the last eleven months, the Earth’s seas have been the warmest since 1940.

He asserts that these records are not being broken by small margins but rather at incremental rates. 

Rowlat goes on to say that they were surpassed by one-third of a degree which, admittedly, does not sound like much. What makes this phenomenon concerning is when the all of world’s oceans heat up simultaneously.

A ‘Mass Bleaching’ Event 

Boiling Oceans
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Marine habitats and ecosystems are also being affected and according to Rowlat, this is a sure indicator of the warming seas, and by extension, global warming.

Bleached coral reefs testify to this anomaly.

The rise in sea temperatures results in the reefs expelling the algae responsible for their vibrant colors and as a result, they become vulnerable.

Rowlat refers to this phenomenon as a “mass bleaching” event.

Antarctic Meltdown

Penguins on The Horizon
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Another aspect of nature suffering the effects of Earth’s warming oceans is Antarctica. 

There, the ongoing meltdown causes chunks of ice to break away and fall into the sea making it increasingly harder for penguins to nest in the South Pole.

Reporting from the United Kingdom, Rowlat claims that the seas around the island country experienced a temperature increase of at least 32 °F over the past decades. As a result, the fauna and flora in the area have changed visibly.

Florida Seas at ‘Hot-Tub-Level’

Florida Beach
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Scientists monitoring the situation have indicated that while, to laymen, these transformations may seem insignificant, to experts they are occurring at a revolutionary rate and scale.

The issue is not limited to the UK. As a testimony to this, on January 1, 2024, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) who chairs the U.S. Senate Budget Committee acknowledged the issue.

In his remarks, he indicated that sea temperatures around Florida had reached “hot-tub-level” in the past summer making it almost uninhabitable for marine life.

As a result, fish migrated away from coastal areas known for their rich catches in search of cooler waters.

Collapse of Greenland Ice Sheets

Greenland Ice
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“Sea level rise projections will prove to be substantial underestimates if we trigger destabilization and collapse of the Greenland or West Antarctic ice sheets,” he warned.

As the chairman of the Budget Committee, Whitehouse emphasized that the deteriorating situation also posed a threat to the $430 billion that oceans add to the US GDP.

Historically, this phenomenon could easily have been explained by the El Niño weather system which is known to warm the central and eastern areas of the tropical Pacific Ocean. 

El Niño Is Not To Blame

El Nino from Space
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According to Rowlat, this weather pattern can no longer be blamed as the increase in temperature is not only being felt in the Pacific but also in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Also, El Niño is fading and expected to dissipate completely by June 2024.

Being an expert on the matter, Rowlat explains that the oceans are the planet’s “get-out-of-jail-free card” because they soak up 90% of the excess heat created by climate change and global warming.

Oceans Radiating Heat

Sun setting on the ocean
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Accounting for 70% of the Earth’s surface area, the oceans also absorb 25% of the carbon dioxide pumped into the air by humans.

The concern here is that if the globe’s oceans get hot enough, they will start radiating heat into the atmosphere—and if what Rowlat says is anything to go by, it has already started.