Ocean temperatures rising at an alarming rate

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The ocean has now broken temperature records every day for more than a year. And so far, 2024 has continued 2023’s trend of beating previous records by wide margins. In fact, the whole planet has been hot for months, according to many different data sets.

Last month, the average global sea surface temperature reached a new monthly high of 21.07 degrees Celsius, or 69.93 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, a research institution funded by the European Union.

Understanding what specific physical processes are behind these temperature records will help scientists improve their climate models and better predict temperatures in the future.

Peter Schlosser, Vice President, Vice Provost and Professor at ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, joined “Arizona Horizon” to tell us more.

“Even with the El Niño conditions that we had in 2023, this jump of almost one degree Celsius is more than what we would have expected,” Schlosser said.

According to Schlosser, the damage cannot be turned around instantaneously but in principle, it can. “We do know that we have to cut on emissions, we know in essence how to do that, we also have to take some of the carbon dioxide that we put in the atmosphere.”

The warming of water causes it to expand, this causes sea-level rise. The effect is on the iconic species of the ocean, the corals are turned completely white. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and it causes mortality.

“If we can mix up the species of corals in specific sides to revive the coral reef that have been damaged, it would take time,” Schlosser said. “The corals have to grow in nurseries, planted, and then bloom which can take years.”

Peter Schlosser, Vice President, Vice Provost and Professor, ASU's Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory

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