Orlando, Florida — The warming of the world’s oceans has been particularly hard on Florida.
Water temperatures in excess of 90 degrees Fahrenheit (ºF) threaten delicate coral reefs, deprive beachgoers of cooling off with a dip, and bring further hardship to a Sunshine State already grappling with a scorching summer. Forecasters are warning of temperatures that, added to the humidity, will feel like 110 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the week.
The world is coming off a week of heat at levels not seen in modern measurements, the World Meteorological Organization reported Monday, using data from Japan’s weather agency to confirm unofficial records reported by the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer platform. almost every day for the past week. Japan reported that the global average temperature on Friday was 0.5°F higher than the hottest day on record, in August 2016.RELATED
Global sea surface temperatures have reached an all-time high since April, and heat in the North Atlantic has been through the roof since mid-March, forecasters report at a time when climate change is linked to more recent events. extreme and lethal.
“We are in uncharted territory and we anticipate more records to be broken,” said WMO Director of Climate Services Christopher Hewitt. “This is worrying news for the planet.”
Now it’s Florida’s turn.
Water temperatures near Johnson Key approached 97 degrees Monday afternoon, according to a buoy from the National Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Another buoy caught a record close to 95ºF near Cayo Vaca a day earlier. The temperature is about 5ºF higher than normal for this time of year, according to forecasters.
“That’s amazing,” said Andrew Orrison of the National Weather Service. “The water is so hot that you can’t really cool down.”
Although the buoy readings were in shallow water, “water temperatures are in the 90s to 93s in much of Florida, which is extremely hot,” said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami. . He claimed that his pool, at 95ºF, doesn’t cool him down, it just leaves him wet.
Water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic in the southeastern United States are 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal, Orrison said. Because the water is so warm, the Florida air gets more moisture, and “that’s making things more difficult or more sweltering for people,” he added.
The dome of heat that plagued Mexico and Texas for much of the first few weeks of summer has made its way to Florida, with sunny days and few or no cooling clouds or rain, but humidity made worse by the high ocean temperatures, Orrison and McNoldy noted.
Not only will it persist for some time, as weather patterns appear to be stuck — an indication of climate change, according to some scientists — but it “could actually get a little worse,” Orrison said, with higher temperatures and humidity leading to the NOAA is forecasting a wind chill near 110ºF for the weekend.
It could be worse. Air temperatures of 110 degrees Fahrenheit are forecast for the southwestern United States, including Arizona, New Mexico and southeastern California, Orrison said. Death Valley could record highs of 120-125ºF by the end of the week, with the possibility of reaching 130ºF, something extremely rare.
In Hollywood Beach, south of Fort Lauderdale, the 91ºF on Monday was close to average. Glenn Stoutt said the breeze made it easier for him to stretch and work out on the beach, though he wore shoes on the hot sand.
“It’s fun to see newcomers and tourists go halfway and realize their feet are burning,” Stoutt said. “They start to run, but no matter how fast you run, you need to get them in the water.”
Scientists are concerned about the state of corals in warmer waters.
“There’s a good chance heat stress builds up early in the season, so we could see some very bad bleaching,” said Mark Eakin of the International Coral Reef Society and a retired NOAA coral scientist. Bleaching weakens corals; prolonged heat is required to kill them.
“We’re already starting to get reports of bleaching in Belize, which is very alarming so early in the summer,” said scientist Liv Williamson of the University of Miami’s Coral Reef Futures Laboratory. She said global projections indicate a 90% chance of large-scale bleaching on many reefs, including Pacific islands along the equator, the tropical Pacific off Panama, the Caribbean coast of Central America and Florida.
“We are barely into July, this heat will continue to build up and these corals will be forced to deal with dangerously hot conditions for much longer than normal,” Williamson said in an email.
Coral bleaching and mass die-offs are becoming more frequent with climate change, especially during the El Niño phenomenon. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef lost half its coral during the last El Niño event in 2016, Williamson said.
Scientists say a new arrival of El Niño partly explains the current high temperatures, along with warming from the consumption of coal, oil and natural gas.