21 Aug 2009: World Ocean Temperatures
Set Record High in July, U.S. Agency Says
The world’s oceans were warmer in July than at any time in the 130 years of record-keeping, averaging 62.6 degrees F (17 C), according to the U.S. National Climate Data Center. July’s temperature was 1.1 degrees F warmer than the 20th century average. Scientists say the high ocean temperatures are primarily the result of global warming and an El Nino climate cycle in the Pacific, which boosts ocean temperatures. Unusually warm sea temperatures were recorded from the Gulf of Mexico — where temperatures hovered near 90 degrees F — to the Arctic, where ocean temperatures as much as 10 degrees F above normal were measured in some places. The Mediterranean Sea was roughly 3 degrees warmer than normal, the Indian Ocean also experienced higher than normal temperatures, and the usually frigid waters off the state of Maine rose to 72 degrees in some locales. Scientists are concerned that rising ocean temperatures will hasten the bleaching and destruction of coral. They also warn that, although it takes longer for the ocean to heat up than the air, once the ocean absorbs heat, it radiates it back into the atmosphere for a long time, further exacerbating global warming.