Researchers from across the globe are sounding the alarm about the possibility that half the world’s oceans will experience heatwave conditions by September of this year.
The findings are the result of an experimental NOAA forecast system.
As things stand today, around 40% of the world’s oceans’ surface temperatures are high enough to reach the criteria for a marine heatwave. The new research by the Physical Sciences Laboratory (PSL) shows that this percentage will increase to 50% by September. The research also shows that the heatwave conditions would remain in place through the end of 2023.
Areas affected so far include but are not restricted to the equatorial Pacific, the Northeast Pacific, the Northwest Pacific in the Sea of Japan, the tropical North Atlantic, the Northeast Atlantic along the Iberian coast as far as the UK and Ireland, and the Western Indian Ocean southeast of Madagascar.
Commenting on the predictions, PSL research scientist and a co-lead of NOAA’s June 2023 marine heatwave experimental outlook Dillon Amaya stated:
“No doubt, we’re in hot water. In our 32-year record, we have never seen such widespread marine heatwave conditions. Normally we might expect only about 10% of the world’s oceans to be ‘hot enough’ to be considered a marine heatwave, so it’s remarkable to reach 40% or 50%, even with long-term warming.
“In a typical year, extreme ocean temperatures like these could mean stronger hurricanes with more rapid intensification. With an El Niño developing alongside these extreme ocean temperatures, there are competing influences on potential Atlantic hurricane intensity. Only time will tell whether one process dominates or if they will cancel each other out and we end up with an average hurricane season.”
While Michael Jacox, who works with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center and is also a PSL research team member, added:
“Even though these forecasts are currently experimental, they have a lot of potential value to stakeholders. By making predictions in real-time we can better test their performance, and also start to build trust with people who could potentially use this information.”
You can check out NOAA’s research here.