The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, looked at the impact of marine heat waves on the diversity of life in the ocean. From coral reefs to kelp forests to sea grass beds, researchers found that these heat waves were destroying the framework of many ocean ecosystems.
But in terms of understanding how fast the Earth is warming, the key is the oceans.
“To lose coral reefs is to fundamentally undermine the health of a very large proportion of the human race,” said Ruth Gates, director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology
So the question is: Why have there been so many sightings outside late summer and early fall, the typical peak season for sharks?
The popular theory is that unseasonably warmer water has brought the change, but experts say it is much more complex than that.
“These past years have been extremely unusual off the California coast, with humpback whales closer to shore, pelagic red crabs washing up on the beaches of central California, and sportfish in higher numbers in southern California,” said Elliott Hazen of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, a coauthor of the paper. “This paper reveals how broad scale warming influences the biology directly off our shores.”
So what is going on? Is global warming beginning to cause more frequent and intense El Niños? And what effect might more powerful El Niño cycles have on the planet’s steadily warming climate?