Researchers in Southern California have recorded the highest sea surface temperature in the area since records began more than a century ago.
The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego has been taking temperature and salinity measurements at the ocean’s surface since 1916. On Thursday, scientists measured the surface water at 27.2°C (81.3°F) by the Torrey Pines buoy (11.7 kilometers/7.3 miles offshore) and the Scripps Nearshore buoy (1.1 km/0.7 mi off the coast), reports SF Gate.
On August 1, scientists measured the surface seawater at 25.9°C (78.6°F). According to a statement released by Scripps, the measurement came after a string of record-setting days. The record surpasses the last one set on July 30, 1931, with a temperature of 25.8°C (78.4°F).
At the beginning of the month, observational networks off the Southern California coast had been seeing record or near-record warm temperatures. Scientists with the institute say their measurements are consistent with extreme weather and land surface temperatures set earlier this year. For the last few months, scorching temperatures around the world have set heat records on nearly every continent, literally melting roads and mountaintops. Previously set records will continue to be broken as weather intensifies from human-driven climate change, which has already driven up global ocean temperatures by about 1°C over the last century, note the researchers.
"Like other climate change trends, background warming enhances the probability and magnitude of extreme events," said Scripps oceanographer and Shore Station's principal investigator Reinhard Flick.
It looks as though there may not be any reprieve in the near future, either. New research published in Nature Communications earlier this month indicates the world could be seeing “abnormally high” temperatures for the next five years, and even longer.
Those trends continue nearly 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the California coast as well. Here, ocean gliders have picked up similar warming trends and an uptick of temperatures following the 2014-16 El Nino event that resulted in unusually warm waters. Scientists with Scripps say it appears as though the coast hasn’t yet recovered. The Coastal Data Information Program also tracks ocean surface temperatures with buoys that measure waves throughout US waters, 14 of which are in Southern California. Across the lower half of the state, near-record highs have been recorded over the past few weeks.
As the researchers note, new records are often set in August as it is the hottest month of the year. It’s possible measurements will continue to see warming waters set the standard through the next few weeks.