Warming Oceans

“Marine animals are disappearing at double the rate of land-based species”

…marine animals like fish, crabs and lobster are already more likely to be living near the threshold of life-threatening temperatures, and because in the ocean, there are fewer places to hide from extreme heat, said Malin Pinsky, lead author of a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

“These results are stunning, in part because the impacts of climate change on ocean life were virtually ignored just a decade ago,” said Pinsky, an ocean researcher at Rutgers University. The study took a close look at cold-blooded marine species whose body temperatures are dependent on their surroundings.

“…something’s off-kilter around the Bering Strait…”

n February, southwest winds brought warm air and turned thin sea ice into “snow cone ice” that melted or blew off. When a storm pounded Norton Sound, water on Feb. 12 surged up the Yukon River and into Kotlik, flooding low-lying homes. Lifelong resident Philomena Keyes, 37, awoke to knee-deep water outside her house.

“This is the first I experienced in my life, a flood that happened in the winter, in February,” Keyes said in a phone interview.

Marine Heat Waves Now More Frequent

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.

Warming Oceans Threaten Starfish

According to Rebecca Vega Thurber, an associate professor of environmental microbiology at Oregon State University, who was not involved in the study, “What’s really exciting about this paper is the really strong correspondence between this temperature anomaly that occurred during that year when the sea stars started dying.”

Everywhere the warming went, the sunflower stars sickened and died.

The study showed a correlation between warming temperatures and the spread of the disease, not a direct cause. But it corroborates a hypothesis that was initially questioned because the virus that researchers think is responsible also shows up in healthy sea stars.

A Shocking 40% Increase in Ocean Warming

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.