Oceanographers are puzzled by an accelerated burst of warming sea that threatens the fisheries of the American Atlantic coast.
Meanwhile, off the US West coast, scientists report that they have been baffled by a mysterious “blob” of water up to 4°C warmerthan the surrounding Pacific, linked to weird weather across the entire country.
Jacob Forsyth and research colleagues from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution(WHOI) in Massachusetts report in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceansthat the ocean off the US north-east continental shelf has been warming at unprecedented levels for 13 years.
Their findings came after analysis of data from sensors—called bathythermographs—dropped 14 times a year from the container ship Oleander, which for 37 years has travelled between New Jersey and Bermuda. Each detector takes the temperature of the water column as it sinks up to 700 metres.
What they were startled to discover was an unexplained, and unprecedented, rise in the water temperatures that may be linked with an equally mysterious sea level anomaly: sea levels are going up, but they are going up faster off the north-east coast of the US than almost anywhere else.
“The warming rate since 2002 is 15 times faster than from the previous 100 years,” says Glen Gawarkiewicz, a WHOI senior scientist and one of the authors of the report.
“There’s just been this incredible acceleration to the warming, and we don’t know if it’s decadal variability or if this trend will continue.”