As the oceans continue to heat up, those effects will become more catastrophic, scientists say. Rainier, more powerful storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Florence in 2018 will become more common, and coastlines around the world will flood more frequently. Coral reefs, whose fish populations are sources of food for hundreds of millions of people, will come under increasing stress; a fifth of all corals have already died in the past three years.
Global warming will drive many of North America’s fish species hundreds of miles northward, potentially costing coastal fishing communities billions of dollars over the next few decades, new research shows. In New England, the centuries-old cod fishery is at… Read More ›
But in terms of understanding how fast the Earth is warming, the key is the oceans.
Veteran diver Steve Lackey, an instructor at Sub-Surface Progression Dive Shop in Fort Bragg, said, “I try not to be an alarmist, but it is pretty unprecedented, in my opinion.”
This time of year, he’s accustomed to seeing small sprouts of kelp begin to appear on the ocean floor, a harbinger of the spring and summer growing season. This year, there are none, he said.
“I don’t remember quite this clean, this kind of scoured rock, with hungry invertebrates,” he said.
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?
“This El Nino is building up to be quite a doozy, but we also have a series of other changes going on,” said Steve Palumbi, director of the Hopkins Marine Station at Stanford University. “We are having changes in wind patterns, changes in upwellings along the coast. It’s like your whole basic ecosystem is being shifted around in different ways.”