This breaking climatic news should be headlined worldwide as record-warming seas from climate change on top of the incoming El Nino, the warm phase of the El Nino Southern Oscillation, portends a hellish summer. We should be bracing for impact.
Sea surface temperatures (SST) are defined as the first few millimeters of the ocean, approximately .02 inches in depth. That doesn't sound like much, but the surface temperature "directly or indirectly impacts the ocean's rate of all physical, chemical, and biological processes," per NOAA. Ocean heat does determine which regions of the earth will remain habitable.
One thing to note is that heating the oceans takes a lot of energy.
Specific heat is defined by the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of a substance 1 degree Celsius (°C). Water has a high specific heat, meaning it takes more energy to increase the temperature of water compared to other substances. This is why water is valuable to industries and in your car's radiator as a coolant. The high specific heat of water also helps regulate the rate at which air changes temperature, which is why the temperature change between seasons is gradual rather than sudden, especially near the oceans.
This same concept can be expanded to a world-wide scale. The oceans and lakes help regulate the temperature ranges that billions of people experience in their towns and cities. Water surrounding or near cities take longer to heat up and longer to cool down than do land masses, so cities near the oceans will tend to have less change and less extreme temperatures than inland cities. This property of water is one reason why states on the coast and in the center of the United States can differ so much in temperature patterns. A Midwest state, such as Nebraska, will have colder winters and hotter summers than Oregon, which has a higher latitude but has the Pacific Ocean nearby.
Today, we have entered uncharted territory as this thin layer of water atop our sloshing orb broke the warmest temperature record in recorded Earth history (60N-60S). The data only goes back to 1981; however, when was the last time temperatures were this warm? Thousands or tens of thousands of years ago, perhaps?
Global sea surface temperatures are now already beating even March 2016 from a massive El Niño year. Crazy to think what will happen as we approach another El Niño in the next few months: Ryan Stauffer
The oceans have saved our backsides from relentless misery as they absorb ninety percent of global warming ‘in the ocean, causing the water’s internal heat to increase since modern record keeping began in 1955’.
The top few meters of the ocean store as much heat as the entirety of the atmosphere.
The effects of warming oceans cause rapid melting of the ice sheets, thermal expansion causing sea levels to rise, coral bleaching, intensifying power of hurricanes, and migration of marine life but only those capable of doing so, toward the poles.
We may breach a 1.5-celsius temperature rise this year. The consequences will be severe and punishing.
Why warming seas matter
The ocean is the largest solar energy collector on Earth. Not only does water cover more than 70 percent of our planet’s surface, it can also absorb large amounts of heat without a large increase in temperature. This tremendous ability to store and release heat over long periods of time gives the ocean a central role in stabilizing Earth’s climate system. The main source of ocean heat is sunlight. Additionally, clouds, water vapor, and greenhouse gases emit heat that they have absorbed, and some of that heat energy enters the ocean. Waves, tides, and currents constantly mix the ocean, moving heat from warmer to cooler latitudes and to deeper levels.
Heat absorbed by the ocean is moved from one place to another, but it doesn’t disappear. The heat energy eventually re-enters the rest of the Earth system by melting ice shelves, evaporating water, or directly reheating the atmosphere. Thus, heat energy in the ocean can warm the planet for decades after it was absorbed. If the ocean absorbs more heat than it releases, its heat content increases. Knowing how much heat energy the ocean absorbs and releases is essential for understanding and modeling global climate.
More than 90 percent of the warming that has happened on Earth over the past 50 years has occurred in the ocean. Recent studies estimate that warming of the upper oceans accounts for about 63 percent of the total increase in the amount of stored heat in the climate system from 1971 to 2010, and warming from 700 meters down to the ocean floor adds about another 30 percent.
Less than a watt per square meter might seem like a small change, but multiplied by the surface area of the ocean (more than 360 million square kilometers), that translates into an enormous global energy imbalance. It means that while the atmosphere has been spared from the full extent of global warming for now, heat already stored in the ocean will eventually be released, committing Earth to additional warming in the future.
The ending of La Nina.
The rare “triple dip” La Niña that worsened the U.S. southwest’s drought, harried two busy Atlantic hurricane seasons and poured into record-breaking rainfall in Australia is finally over.
The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center issued its final advisory for the outgoing cold phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle March 9.
“La Niña has ended and ENSO-neutral conditions are expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring and early summer 2023,” the center announced.
What does this mean? The ENSO cycle describes whether the waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean are warmer than average (El Niño), cooler than average (La Niña) or neutral, ie. average. Either warmer or cooler Pacific temperatures can influence weather around the world. In the U.S., for example, El Niño is associated with dryer, warmer weather in the northern states and more rain and increased flood risk in the Southeast and along the Gulf Coast, The New York Times explained. La Niña, on the other hand, typically brings dryer, warmer weather to the south and wetter weather to the north.