AUSTIN (KXAN) — Sea surface temperatures have been rising steadily due, in part, to climate change. It was reported that 2023 bested 2016, the last year a global water temperature record was set.
In early April, the average temperature of the ocean’s surface reached 69.98°/21.1°C. It beat the annual record of 69.8°/21° set in March 2016 and is half a degree above the global average in the 30-year period from 1982 to 2011.
How are the temperatures measured? Satellites take these readings about one meter (3.28 feet) below the surface. The results are then confirmed by buoys and ships.
This year’s peak was a cause for concern. The peak in early April got its start in previous years, including 2022, which was another hot year for sea-surface temperatures.
How and why did this happen? Let’s start with the human factor. Some people don’t treat the oceans with respect. As some have seen in our Central Texas waterways, humans toss their trash — including beer cans, soda cans and plastic bottles — into the water without giving it a thought.
But our warming climate has contributed to this rise because the oceans have taken on a significant amount of unusual heat caused by the rise in greenhouse-gas emissions, leading to the rise in the global sea-surface temperature and that 69.98° record.
The oceans also influence the weather. We have just come out of a prolonged La Niña, one which, for Central Texas, has impacted the extreme to exceptional drought. That was especially apparent in 2022, leading to 68 days of triple-digit high temperatures. Looking at a global contrast, mean air temperatures trend cooler, allowing for more heat to accumulate deep in the oceans.
Experts feel that the end of La Niña allowed that heat to rise to the surface, contributing to the record.
There are, of course, other concerns. When the ocean temperatures are as warm as they are now, ice melting happens, leading to an increase in ocean levels given water expands as it heats. Storms are stronger during an El Niño, as a result.
It’s not just the oceans heating up that are being affected. Warmer oceans take on less heat and a lower amount of carbon dioxide, leading to the warming of the climate. Warmer waters lead to more evaporation, along with stronger cyclones. Remember, that heat has to go somewhere.
Part of what it does is causes an increase in global warming.