Climate Change

Ocean temperatures are warmer than ever. Is the damage reversible?

Widespread marine heat waves in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean peaked in September and continued through the end of the year.

Warmer sea temperatures leads to the bleaching of coral reefs, seen here in the Great Barrier Reef.
Warmer sea temperatures leads to the bleaching of coral reefs, seen here in the Great Barrier Reef.
Shutterstock
SMS

Earth’s oceans set disturbing new records for high temperatures every day for a year.

Consolidated data in a report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) showed the ocean heat content reached its highest level in history in 2023, with the highest warming rates over the last 20 years. 

The WMO said the warming trend is expected to continue, “which is irreversible on scales of hundreds to thousands of years.”

Widespread marine heat waves in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean peaked in September and continued through the end of the year, the report said. Strong to severe heat waves were documented in the Mediterranean Sea for the 12th consecutive year. 

Scientists blamed the record level concentrations of greenhouse gases — the main ones being carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — in the atmosphere for why this long-term increase in ocean temperatures is happening. 

“CO2 levels are 50% higher than the pre-industrial era, trapping heat in the atmosphere. The long lifetime of CO2 means that temperatures will continue to rise for many years to come,” said the WMO. 

While the oceans continue to warm, sea ice continues to melt. 

Ice caps in the Antarctica region reached a record low since satellites began documenting the content in 1979, according to the report. It was a similar story in the Arctic. 

The report did note one positive: The growing resources of renewable energy, like solar and wind, could bring hope for the future. 

However, the concerns right now are the effects warming waters have on marine environments and the contributions they will make to increasing natural weather disasters. 

“The climate crisis is THE defining challenge that humanity faces and is closely intertwined with the inequality crisis — as witnessed by growing food insecurity and population displacement, and biodiversity loss” said WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo in a statement.

February set another record for global warmth
February set another record for global warmth

February set another record for global warmth

Earth set another global temperature record in February. But experts are unsure whether a waning El Niño will be enough to cool temperatures.

LEARN MORE