Scientists Say Extreme Heat in the Oceans Is the Ultimate ‘Wake-Up Call’ to Act on Climate Change

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"A new study found climate change has caused record-high ocean warming, and scientists are begging for this to be a wake-up call for humanity."

As a result of human activity, global warming is heating the Earth’s climate system. Thus, climate change is causing extreme changes to our typical weather patterns. And scientists say our oceans are experiencing extremely high temperatures as a result.

The planet is already experiencing more extreme weather conditions. With an increase in severe hurricanes, super typhoons, and even the prospect of snowless winters, our planet is facing the brunt of climate change’s lasting effects. Specifically, our oceans’ temperatures have reached an all-time high, putting marine life at risk.

How Hot Are Our Oceans?

ocean warming

According to a study published in the journal PLOS Climate, more than half of the ocean has regularly surpassed historical temperature benchmarks since 2014, making extreme high temperatures the new norm. Researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium say these warm temperatures are a result of climate change and human activity.

To conduct this research, scientists analyzed ocean temperatures over the last 150 years. In that time, ocean temperatures reached an all-time high. As of 2019, 57% of the global ocean surface experienced extreme heat. However, this figure used to be significantly lower—only 2% of the ocean’s surface saw these high temperatures at the end of the 19th Century.

Oceans cover about 70% of the Earth’s surface, and over the last 50 years, 90% of the planet’s warming has occurred in the ocean, according to NOAA Climate.gov.

Scientists say the rise in ocean temperatures threatens marine ecosystems. Plus, high ocean temperatures could threaten food security and cause more extreme weather events, negatively impacting coastal communities. And Dr. Kyle Van Houtan, head of the research team for Monterey Bay Aquarium’s study, says this risk doesn’t just impact marine life—humans will also be impacted.

“When marine ecosystems near the tropics experience intolerably high temperatures, key organisms such as corals, seagrass meadows, or kelp forests can collapse,” Van Houtan says in a press release. “Altering ecosystem structure and function threatens their capacity to provide life-sustaining services to human communities like supporting healthy and sustainable fisheries, buffering low-lying coastal regions from extreme weather events, and serving as a carbon sink to store the excess carbon put in the atmosphere from human-generated greenhouse emissions.”

However, Van Houtan says these findings are a “wake-up call” for humans to act on climate change. Plus, this research starts climate change discourse, which could facilitate change and lead to conservation efforts.

Human activity has led to the rise in ocean temperatures, but human activity can also lead to a decrease. Here’s how you can make a difference and help save marine life.

How You Can Help

ocean warming

1. Participate in a Community Clean-Up

Community clean-ups and beach clean-ups are great ways to get involved. If you live near the water, gather friends, family, and volunteers to spend just a few hours picking up garbage and recycling on the beach. This keeps waste out of the oceans and away from marine life.

If you’re not near the water, you can organize a clean-up at a local park or city hotspot. Be sure to gather supplies like reusable gloves and waste bags, and you’re good to go.

2. Travel Sustainably

One of the many ways humans emit large amounts of greenhouse gases is traveling. Driving a car or even flying on a plane is associated with high emissions that get trapped in the atmosphere and heat the planet.

However, you can make more sustainable travel choices. For example, ride a bike when you’re traveling locally or take public transportation during peak travel times. You can even opt for flights that offset carbon emissions. Whichever way you choose to travel, be sure to keep the planet in mind.

3. Be Mindful of Waste

We accumulate waste in a lot of ways. To decrease the amount of waste you produce in your day-to-day life, limit how many single-use items you use. This includes plastic bottles, takeout containers, beauty products, and more. Instead, replace them with reusable, sustainably-made products.

You can also decrease your food waste by knowing how to keep fruits and vegetables fresh and composting organic materials. If you’re not already composting, you can start with a kitchen counter compost bin.

4. Stay Informed

Climate anxiety is normal, though it can bring us down. Another easy way to make a difference is to stay informed on current eco-discussions.

Staying in-the-know about climate change issues will help you navigate how to reduce your carbon footprint and make more eco-conscious decisions in your everyday life. Stay updated on local climate policies, and spread your knowledge to others. More eco-friendly lifestyle choices mean a greater climate-friendly impact.


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A new study found climate change has caused record-high ocean warming, and scientists are begging for this to be a wake-up call for humanity.

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