Scientists Alarmed by Spike in Ocean Temperatures

Heat Seekers

As last year's record-breaking ocean temperatures refuse to slow down, warming waters around the globe continue to alarm scientists — who, The New York Times reports, seem just about as bewildered by the speed of the rising temperatures as the next person.

"The North Atlantic has been record-breakingly warm for almost a year now," Brian McNoldy, a senior researcher and hurricane formation expert at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science, told the NYT. "It's just astonishing. Like, it doesn't seem real."

"It's quite scary, partly because I'm not hearing any scientists that have a convincing explanation of why it is we've got such a departure," added Rob Larter, a Cambridge, England-based marine geophysicist who studies arctic ice levels. "We're used to having a fairly good handle on things."

"But the impression at the moment is that things have gone further and faster than we expected," Larter continued, per the NYT. "That's an uncomfortable place as a scientist to be."

Record Breaker

To be clear, it's not that these researchers are surprised by ocean warming in general. Earth's oceans have been warming for decades, a result of the greenhouse gases released by fossil fuels as they burn.

What is surprising to scientists, according to the report, is the rate at which ocean warming is continuing to take place. Even with the ongoing El Niño current taken into consideration, it appears that the current ocean temperature is surpassing scientists' predictions — which aren't exactly prognostications that anyone wants to see beaten.

"We all know that there's been a rapid warming, particularly over the last few decades," Larter told the NYT. "But over the last 18 months, it's jumped up beyond what we expected."

Per the NYT, one theory researchers have floated for the rapidly warming temps is a decrease in aerosol pollution over the ocean. Though it sounds counterintuitive, the scientists explained that before new 2020 shipping regulations limited the amount of sulfur dioxide that could be used in container ship fuel, enough aerosol hung over the ocean that it blocked some of the Sun's heat from reaching the ocean's surface. (Disclaimer: aerosols are still very harmful.)

"When those aerosols were in the sky above the shipping lanes, they helped create a cloud cover, and there's much less now," McNoldy told the NYT.

That's right, folks. Humans have messed the Earth up so badly that successfully eliminating some of the devastating pollution we've wrought on our planet might be causing even more problems. And though we wish there were more of a silver lining here, considering the apparent bafflement of researchers, the state of the ocean appears as dire as ever.

More on the warming oceans: Scientists Say the Atlantic Current Appears to Be on the Verge of Collapse