Pacific Ocean is cooking, even without El Niño
FRISCO — Global ocean temperatures have soared to the highest level in recorded history this year, and the rate of warming has accelerated since April, according to scientists with the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
“This summer has seen the highest global mean sea surface temperatures ever recorded since their systematic measuring started,” said Axel Timmermann, a climate scientist at the university’s International Pacific Research Center. “Temperatures even exceed those of the record-breaking 1998 El Niño year,” Timmermann said, adding that the new data analysis shows that the global warming pause, if there was one, is over.
“The 2014 global ocean warming is mostly due to the North Pacific, which has warmed far beyond any recorded value,” he said, adding that the temperature trend in the Pacific has shifted hurricane tracks, weakened trade winds, and bleached corals around the Hawaiian Islands.
Timmerman said sea-surface temperatures started to rise unusually quickly in the extratropical North Pacific in January 2014. A few months later, in April and May, westerly winds pushed a huge amount of very warm water usually stored in the western Pacific along the equator to the eastern Pacific.
This warm water has spread along the North American Pacific coast, releasing into the atmosphere enormous amounts of heat that had been locked up in the Western tropical Pacific for nearly a decade, since the last big El Niño year.
“Record-breaking greenhouse gas concentrations and anomalously weak North Pacific summer trade winds, which usually cool the ocean surface, have contributed further to the rise in sea surface temperatures. The warm temperatures now extend in a wide swath from just north of Papua New Guinea to the Gulf of Alaska, Timmermann said.