Oceans Are Record Warm, Which Likely Means Stronger Hurricanes & Larger Wildfires

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In many places, the heat waves of summer have begun, with record high temperatures making spring pass by in a flash. In recent years, that brought highly destructive fires terrorizing places like California and Australia, something hard to remember adequately now that they’re being eclipsed somewhat by the coronavirus pandemic. Around the corner are large storms, which clear out the air and sun but also more than that, often taking homes and life with them. What does the rapidly warming ocean waters mean in this calculus? Quite a lot.

As a review, NOAA’s chief climate monitoring scientist, Deke Arndt, answers the question, “What evidence is there that the change in climate we are experiencing now is human-caused rather than a part of a natural cycle?”

“There are three main indicators. Number one, science has known about the influential ‘greenhouse’ properties of certain human-produced gases and has anticipated greenhouse warming in the real world for nearly 200 years now. Number two, the troposphere (the lower atmosphere) is warming, while the stratosphere (higher atmosphere) is cooling. You can’t warm the lower atmosphere and cool the higher layers without changing the composition of the atmosphere. And three, we have no alternative explanations. There isn’t a competing theory of what’s driving the warming other than human activity.”

According to NOAA, parts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans all hit the record books for warmth last month. Among other thins, that means the Atlantic hurricane season could be harsh. Additionally, the data suggest that the record heat and severe thunderstorms raking the southern US will continue.

The winter never seemed to come here in the Southeast, with record warm water in the Gulf of Mexico making winter feel more like spring, and now spring more like summer. Indeed, according to Deke Arndt, chief of the monitoring section at the National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina, Florida had its hottest March on record, Bloomberg reports, “and Miami reached 93 degrees [April 15], a record for the date and 10 degrees above normal, according to the National Weather Service..”

Confirming what you might have sensed, it was not simply you sweating more than expected. Indeed, the whole planet was and may continue to sweat in rising heat. February 2020 ranked as the second-hottest February in the 141-year global climate record, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. And that affected the waters worldwide.

“Worldwide, sea temperatures were 1.49 degrees Fahrenheit above average in March. That’s the second highest level recorded since 1880 for the month of March, according to U.S. data. In 2016, temperatures were 1.55 degrees above average.”

Warmer waters mean more big storms. National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Kevin Trenberth is concerned that if the Gulf of Mexico remains record warm, another major hurricane could plow through portions of the US.

One may think all of this is unrelated to wildfires, terrifying in their own right. For much greater understanding of modern fire, watch the fascinating film The Human Element. “The new fires that we’re seeing now tend to be larger, more intense,” Stephen Pyne, professor Arizona State University, said in the film. “I think we are starting to understand that this began a long time ago — when the Earth’s keystone species, which is us, changed fundamentally its combustion habits.”

The Bloomberg reporting explains the link to the oceans and some thoughts on the coming season, “The oceans also play a role in setting the stage for wildfires. In the case of Australia and the Amazon, really warm areas of the ocean can pull rain away from the land, causing drier conditions and, in extreme cases, drought. Last year, for instance, the Indian Ocean was really warm off Africa, so that is where all the storms went. Australia was left high and dry.

“Back in the Atlantic, research by Katia Fernandes, a geosciences professor at the University of Arkansas, has also shown a correlation between sea surface temperatures in the northern tropical Atlantic and drought and wildfires in the Amazon. The warmer the water, the further north rainfall is pulled across South America.”

It’s all connected, on this blue and green marble.

Featured image: Next door, the morning after Hurricane Irma, by Cynthia Shahan | CleanTechnica

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Cynthia Shahan

Cynthia Shahan, started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. Words can be used improperly depending on the culture you are in. (Several unrelated publications) She has a degree in Education, Anthropology, Creative Writing, and was tutored in Art as a young child thanks to her father the Doctor. Pronouns: She/Her

Cynthia Shahan has 947 posts and counting. See all posts by Cynthia Shahan