Heat Waves in Our Oceans Have Become Far More Frequent in the Last Century, Study Finds

Sean Breslin
Published: April 13, 2018

This photo taken Aug. 20, 2017 shows coral in the sea in Raja Ampat in Indonesia's far eastern Papua.
(GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Heat waves in our oceans are getting longer and more frequent, and that's having a severe impact on marine life, according to a new study.

The findings, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, concluded our oceans have seen a 54-percent increase in heat wave days from 1925 to 2016. Climate change is responsible for the change, and the trend is expected to continue to increase in the coming decades, the study also said.

"We can expect further increases in marine heat wave days under continued global warming," said the study.

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The rise in greenhouse gas emissions means more heat is being stored in our oceans, and that's what has caused the increase in heat wave days, the study also said. Abnormally warm oceans have been blamed for the recent deaths of crabs, sea lions, whales and seabirds, according to USA Today.

These heat waves are also wiping out coral reefs in widespread bleaching events as yet another key piece of the ocean ecosystem falls victim to global warming.

"This increase in marine heat waves is having devastating impacts on coral reefs around the world," NOAA coral reefs specialist Mark Eakin told the Washington Post.

The study, which was led by Eric Oliver, an assistant professor in physical oceanography at the Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, shows how fragile the underwater ecosystem upon which millions rely for food has become in the face of a changing climate.

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