Swimmers dive into the Mediterranean Sea, where rapid warming has caused ocean temperatures in the region to soar to unprecedented levels over the past year, according to scientists. File Photo by Wael Hamzeh/EPA-EFE
Aug. 4 (UPI) -- The rapid warming of the Mediterranean Sea has caused ocean temperatures in the region to soar to unprecedented levels over the past year, according to new climate data from the European Union's leading marine observer.
Marine heat waves in the region in the summer of 2022 posed a grave threat to vital marine ecosystems, while also portending an increased frequency of extreme weather events, according to a report from Copernicus Marine Service, the environmental monitor for the EU's Space Program.
The study, titled "Record-Breaking Marine Heatwaves in the Mediterranean and Safeguarding Marine Ecosystems," noted in particular the heat wave's disruption to marine life as the Earth's oceans were absorbing approximately 90% of excess heat produced by humans through carbon emissions.
The marine heat waves impacted many vulnerable species, such as coral reefs, exotic fish, and microscopic organisms that continue to experience thermal stress and bleaching events amid significant declines in overall sea life, the report said.
The ocean, for its part, has carried out its natural assignment to keep the planet cool -- absorbing heat and distributing it across the globe through ocean currents. But scientists said planetary heating over the past 20 years had led to warmer seas and hotter air in the atmosphere, resulting in thinning ice shelves and many other serious consequences for natural habitats and food chains worldwide.
Marine scientists have tracked several record-breaking heat waves in the region since summer 2022 as the Mediterranean has warmed faster than the global average since satellite records began more than 40 years ago, the report said.
Marine heat waves, which are characterized by prolonged periods of higher-than-normal ocean temperatures, have been occurring more frequently in the 21st century.
A recent analysis by World Weather Attribution says extreme world temperatures in July were a likely sign of worsening climate change and that heat waves are no longer rare but at least 50 times more likely in the modern world.
Another report from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change blamed carbon emissions for continuously heating the Earth's surface and oceans for more than half a century.
The past 10 years have also been the warmest on record since the first Industrial Revolution, NASA said, while many climate experts continue to express concern over the steady drumbeat of new heat records since 2022.
The Barcelona Institute for Global Health reported in July that 61,672 deaths were attributed to excessive heat between May 30, 2022, and Sept. 4, 2022, as temperatures were hotter than average every week of the summer,
In late July, the temperature off the South Florida coast soared to more than 100 degrees on consecutive days, while sweltering conditions around the world were forecast to continue through September and potentially into late fall and the start of winter, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Meteorologists also warned previously that an El Nino event was likely to prolong extreme temperatures into the coming months, raising the potential for even more heat records worldwide.