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Climate change: What record-breaking ocean temperatures mean for Gen-Z

By: Uriel Perez-Vivaldo

A marine biologist researching the massive coral bleaching that occurred off the coast of Florida this summer

The death of ocean life and humanity is happening now. Heat stored in the ocean will eventually be released. Overflow of heat storage in the sea will contribute to coral bleaching, vigorous hurricanes, and record-breaking high temperatures.

Coral bleaching is when seawater is too warm, which causes corals to expel their algae from their tissue, causing them to turn completely white. Corals can sustain bleaching events but only for a short period. Coral reefs are susceptible to ocean temperatures. A 1.5℃ increase in ocean temperatures can destroy “70 to 90 percent of coral reefs, and a 2 °C increase means a nearly 100 percent loss - a point of no return (How is climate change impacting the world’s ocean).”Currently, the water temperature near the east coast is 90℉, which is peculiar because high temperatures engender later in September – as a result, the bleaching season started a month earlier, potentially killing most coral reefs. Coral reefs provide shoreline protection from storms and sea level rise. Consequently, oceanic species that rely on corals for shelter and food will succumb to extinction Trade winds– winds blow east to west just north and south of the equator. Trade winds blow the warm waters from South America towards Asia and Australia. La Niña uses trade winds to move warm water west towards Indonesia and Australia resulting in colder temperatures near the Pacific Ocean. El Niño is the counterpart of La Niña, both natural climate phenomena, however, El Niño causes “unusual winds which cause warm surface water from the equator to move east, toward Central and South America.” 80℉ is the ideal temperature to cause hurricanes, and currently, elevated ocean temperatures reach above 80℉ near the east coast of Florida. As long as warm water is present, the heightened intensity of hurricanes will prevail over shores for extended periods. Storms lasting for an extended period can have catastrophic and exacerbated effects, such as the destruction of homes and irreversible loss of marine and coastal ecosystems and species (How is climate change impacting the world’s ocean). Furthermore, storms can impact coral heads and branching corals which are susceptible to drastic storm waves causing them to break and topple over.

Record-breaking high temperatures have generally persisted annually. The ocean absorbs 90% of heat globally however, humanity has almost toppled the ocean’s capacity to absorb heat resulting in irreversible global warming effects (The ongoing marine heat waves in U.S. waters, explained). Extinction of coral reefs, algae, and certain marine species will cease to exist if oceanic heat temperatures do not decrease. Furthermore, record-breaking temperatures will cause a domino effect on oceanic life with irreparable solutions. Humanity has seen the catastrophic effects of record-breaking temperatures, such as extended periods of blackouts and cities reaching triple digits for an ongoing period due to the overflow of oceanic heat storage.

In sum, humanity and ocean life will cease to exist without drastic measures to reduce global warming emissions. Marine life will be the first to feel the impact of global warming since the ocean absorbs a significant percentage of heat from the sun. Causing the extinction of coral reefs and heightened storm waves, causing the destruction of marine ecosystems.

Written by intern Uriel Perez-Vivaldo

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