Hotter Ocean Turns Up The Heat On Our 2°C Climate Target: Rising North Atlantic Temperatures

Hello, Climate Crusaders! Brace yourselves as we dive into some deep, blue, and alarmingly warm waters. We have covered before many times on ShrinkThatFootprint about the fact that the Earth’s oceans has been an excellent carbon and heat sink that soaks up the excesses to moderate changes caused by anthropogenic activity. NOAA satellites and the brilliant minds at the University of Maine have compiled some chilling (or should we say ‘heating’?) data.

Large temperature change in June 2023 throughout the Atlantic Ocean has alarmed a group of scientists

As of early June 2023, the North Atlantic is strutting around with record-breaking temperatures up to 0.5 degrees warmer than any previous records, and more than one degree hotter than our 1982-2011 average.

These rising temperatures are leaving our scientist buddies buzzing and our goals of hitting that golden 2°C target trembling. Climate change, the arch-nemesis of our mission, is undoubtedly dipping its destructive hands into this warming trend, but our sleuthing scientists believe other sneaky factors are at play, too.

In a twist worthy of an environmental thriller, an atmospheric blocking pattern has set up shop over the Labrador Sea, Greenland, and Iceland. This big shot pattern is flexing its muscles, pushing pressure and temperatures higher than normal in the North Atlantic’s high latitudes and the tropics. Imagine, this natural thermal blanket is just lounging around and catching some rays, all while our precious 2°C target hangs in the balance.

And remember those pesky dust clouds blowing over from the Sahara desert? Turns out, they’re playing truant this year. While normally they’re known to act like a much-needed parasol, reflecting solar radiation, their MIA status is adding fuel to the warming fire. Our pals at NASA called it back in 2021, forecasting that we might see less of these dusty shields in the coming years, largely due to these warming ocean temperatures.

Why should you, our valiant climate warriors, care about this heatwave happening in the middle of the ocean? Let’s connect the dots. As we buckle up for hurricane season, a hotter-than-usual Atlantic is like an all-you-can-eat buffet for tropical storms and hurricanes. More warmth equals more fuel, leading to more stormy weather wreaking havoc on our coasts. Yet, Mother Nature might throw us a bone with a developing El Niño, which could stir up enough wind shear to keep these stormy troublemakers at bay. It’s the warming Atlantic versus El Niño – an atmospheric battle of the titans!

University of Maine – North Atlantic ocean temperatures over 12 months, each curve is a different year. The dark bolded curve is above every previous year, and above the average (tightly dotted line)

This undersea thermostat hike serves as a hot reminder of why our 2°C target is so critical. Our ocean friends not only regulate climate but also house incredible ecosystems that do a tremendous job of locking away carbon dioxide. As the oceans warm, these ecosystems and the carbon capture process could be jeopardized. We need to keep our eye on the prize, folks! Let’s continue to rally for substantial global greenhouse gas emission cuts. This is not just a target; it’s a lifeline for our planet. So let’s get going, crusaders. It’s time to turn the tide!

Staff Writer
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