Oceans cover more than 70% of the earth and absorb 94% of incoming solar radiation. As a result, oceans play a major role in the climate system. With their massive size and capacity to store heat, oceans help keep temperature fluctuations in check. But oceans also play a more active role. Ocean currents are responsible for moving vast amounts of heat around the planet.
According to a paper recently published in the journal Nature Communications, the world’s strongest ocean currents will experience more intense marine heatwaves than the global average in the coming decades. These strong ocean currents play key roles in fisheries and ocean ecosystems.
Sections of the Gulf Stream near the United States, the Kuroshio Current near Japan, the East Australian Current near Australia, and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current will all see more intense marine heatwaves over the next 30 years.
Scientists from the University of Tasmania and CSIRO in Australia relied on high-resolution ocean modeling to carry out their research. They confirmed the model’s accuracy by comparing outputs with observations from 1982-2018. They then used the same model to project how marine heatwaves would alter with climate change out to 2050.
The model projects, for example, that intense marine heatwaves are more likely to form well off the coast of Tasmania, while more intense marine heatwaves along the Gulf Stream start to appear more frequently close to the shore from Virginia to New Brunswick, Canada.
Marine heatwaves are on the rise globally, but knowing where they will occur and how much hotter they will be will help policymakers, ecologists, and fisheries experts in their regional decision-making.
Photo, posted April 17, 2016, courtesy of Nicolas Henderson via Flickr.