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World’s oceans have warmed to a ‘point of no return’

What were scorching ocean extremes only recently are now normal, a new study reports. It analyzed ocean surface temperatures for the past 150 years. By 2019, it now reveals, 57 percent of the ocean’s surface was warming to temps rarely seen 100 years ago.

Authors of the study shared their new findings February 1 in PLOS Climate.

Marine ecologists wanted to learn how often modern extreme-heat events occur. They also wanted to see how long they last. Kisei Tanaka was one of those ecologists. He now works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Tanaka teamed up with Kyle Van Houtan, who works at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. It’s in Juno Beach, Fla. The two analyzed monthly sea-surface temperatures collected from 1870 through 2019. Then they mapped where and when extreme heat events had shown up, decade by decade.

By looking at monthly extremes instead of annual averages, new details emerged. The two found that over time, more and more patches of water were reaching extreme temperatures.

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