Parts of the Atlantic Ocean are experiencing an "exceptional" marine heatwave, sparking concerns about marine life impacts off the coasts of the United Kingdom and Ireland, while scientists — particularly ones who monitor hurricanes are worried about an active season in the tropics.
Meteorologist Colin McCarthy tweeted, "We are witnessing one of the most extreme marine heatwave events ever recorded in modern history." He said a 4,000-mile-long stretch of superheated water extends from the coastal waters off of West Africa to the coastal waters just south of Iceland.
A ~4,000 mile long stretch of severe marine heatwave conditions extends all the way from the coastal waters off of West Africa to the coastal waters just south of Iceland.— Colin McCarthy (@US_Stormwatch) June 19, 2023
We are witnessing one of the most extreme marine heatwave events ever recorded in modern history. pic.twitter.com/OExUnItRI7
Parts of the North Sea are experiencing the highest temperatures in decades. Some areas are under category four marine heat wave – defined as "extreme," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Water temperatures in some areas are 9 Fahrenheit above average levels for this time of year.
'Beyond extreme' by definition.— Scott Duncan (@ScottDuncanWX) June 19, 2023
Ireland and the British Isles are at the epicentre of a major marine heatwave. We have not seen the North Atlantic look like this in modern records.
Marine heatwaves are categorised from 1 to 5. There are hotspots hitting category 5. pic.twitter.com/2lle3hrsGv
"The eastern Atlantic, from Iceland down to the tropics, is much warmer than average. But areas around parts of north-western Europe, including parts of the UK, have among some of the highest sea-surface temperatures relative to average," Stephen Belcher, the Met Office's chief scientist, said in a statement.
Met Office Chief Scientist Professor Stephen Belcher said, "May 2023 has seen the highest temperatures of any May since 1850."
The heatwave is "very exceptional," Mika Rantanen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, told CNN. He said it's "currently the strongest on Earth."
Richard Unsworth, an associate professor of biosciences at Swansea University in the UK, said the Atlantic heatwave is "totally unprecedented."
Scientists alarmingly indicate that superheated water might adversely affect marine life because warm water holds less oxygen.
Forecasters said the abnormally hot waters in the tropical area of the Atlantic could already be responsible for two disturbances heading towards the Caribbean Sea.
Some areas in the Atlantic have recorded temperatures only seen during peak hurricane season in September, indicating this could be a long hot summer ahead.
Meteorologist Ben Noll said these much warmer than average waters in the topics are happening in an area known to be a "breeding ground for hurricanes."
This map highlights (🟡) where current sea surface temperatures are warmer than they would typically be during *September*!— Ben Noll (@BenNollWeather) June 17, 2023
In other words, yellow areas indicate where the sea is as warm right now as it would normally* be in three months time!
It includes large swaths of the… pic.twitter.com/kkd0GS5SJG
"The Atlantic is definitely on fire," Micheal Fischer, an assistant scientist with the University of Miami-NOAA Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, told Miami Herald.
There could be several causes for rising sea surface temperatures, with the weather phenomenon El Niño underway that tends to have a warming effect around certain parts of the world. Some have also said the lack of dust from the Sahara, which usually cools parts of the Atlantic by reflecting sunlight.
Two consequences of the marine heatwave in the Atlantic could be devastating marine wildlife on the coasts of Europe and increased tropical disturbances in the North American region.