Current rising temperatures across Europe could be followed by long-term heat waves in Mediterranean waters that could wreak havoc on ecosystems and decimate marine life and species in the coming weeks, scientists said.
Extreme heat in recent weeks has already caused wildfires and thousands of deaths in Europe, but the heat isn’t just on land.
Unusually warm air, along with changes in ocean currents as Mediterranean waters settle, have caused coastal waters to rise several degrees Celsius above the year’s average, which ranges from 24 to 26 degrees Celsius.
The Spanish Meteorological Agency said the waters between Spain’s Balearic Islands and the Italian coast were up to 5 degrees Celsius warmer than the same time last year, while temperatures around the Spanish coast were expected to be 3 to 4 degrees Celsius warmer. At least August.
The Spanish Ports Authority said last week the hottest temperature in 10 years reached 28 degrees Celsius in Cabo de Cata, in the southeastern corner of the country.
Ocean heat waves, which are less researched and studied than land heat waves, are becoming more frequent due to climate change, putting pressure on ecosystems already suffering from overfishing and plastic pollution.
Oceanographer Jean-Pierre Gattuso told Reuters that the water temperature near the French coastal city of Nice on January 25 reached 29.2 degrees Celsius, 3.5 degrees Celsius higher than the same day last year.
“It’s been a record since at least 1994, and it’s very possible (it’s the previous record),” he said.
“The sea and ocean are like a sponge in terms of heat,” Gattuso said. Heat waves hit the Mediterranean between 2015 and 2019, leading to mass die-offs of marine life, a study by the Spanish Institute of Marine Sciences reported this week.
But this year the heat has been worse.
“It (continues) to be longer and more intense,” Gattuso said, adding that “death is likely to come in August.”
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