Carbon emissions and El Nino push oceans to record temperatures

Carbon emissions and El Nino push oceans to record temperatures

Months of record breaking temperatures and the El Niño weather phenomenon pushed the heating up of the world’s oceans to a new peak in February, scientists said.

Oceans cover 70 percent of the planet and have kept the Earth’s surface livable by absorbing 90 percent of the excess heat produced by carbon pollution from human activity since the dawn of the industrial age.

The world’s oceans have been getting progressively hotter for around a decade, but last year scientists have said the temperatures were “off the charts”, as the effects of human-caused climate change combined with the short term warming impacts of the naturally-occuring El Niño.

That trend has continued into 2024, with February seeing average sea surface temperatures of 21.06 degrees Celsius, the highest for any month on record, according to Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) data released on Thursday.

Sea surface temperature influences weather and climate patterns.

Hotter oceans means more moisture in the atmosphere, leading to increasingly erratic weather, like fierce winds and powerful rain.

Warmer waters also impact marine life, from coral reefs to migratory species like humpback whales.

Copernicus has said last year’s global temperatures were likely the hottest in over 100,000 years.

The period from February 2023 to January 2024 marked the first time Earth had endured 12 consecutive months of temperatures 1.5˚C hotter than the pre-industrial era.

And February continued the record-breaking stretch, averaging 1.77˚C warmer than the monthly estimate for 1850-1900, the pre-industrial benchmark.