Revealed: Deep-sea marine heatwaves devastating ocean ecosystems

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Updated: 1:34 PM, Sat September 16, 2023

Researchers have recently revealed the devastating impact of deep-sea marine heatwaves on ocean ecosystems. While satellites have allowed for daily measurements of surface ocean temperatures since the 1980s, they cannot provide insight into what is happening below. However, new research has shown that marine heatwaves can penetrate all the way down to the seabed, affecting life even in the deepest parts of the ocean.

These marine heatwaves are particularly damaging to the seas covering the continental shelf, where a variety of sea creatures reside. These creatures are sensitive to extreme temperatures, and even a slight increase from their usual cold water temperatures can be devastating. The severity of the heatwaves is exemplified by the death of over a billion sea creatures during a single heatwave off the coast of the western United States and Canada in 2021.

Marine heatwaves force fish and other mobile creatures to migrate towards the poles or to deeper waters in search of cooler temperatures. This migration can also lead to the arrival of new species, causing changes in the ecosystem. However, the true impact of these heatwaves on the seafloor is often overlooked, as it is difficult to gather data on temperatures below the surface.

Australia stands out as one of the few places that has been collecting valuable long-term data on ocean temperatures. One significant source of data comes from oceanographic moorings off the coast of southeast Australia. These moorings, equipped with sensors, have been measuring daily temperatures from the surface to the seafloor since 1993.

The analysis of this temperature data has revealed the different types and causes of marine heatwaves, as well as their seasonal variations. Winter marine heatwaves, for example, occur when the warm East Australian Current moves westward towards the coast, dragging warm water over the continental shelf. In contrast, summer heatwaves can result from clear skies allowing more heat from the sun to reach the ocean surface, or from weaker winds reducing the cooling effect of evaporation.

One particularly strange type of heatwave occurs close to the seafloor, where strong winds create currents that drive warm, shallow water down. These currents mainly originate from cold winds in the south, causing the seafloor to experience a heatwave while people on the coast shiver in cold winds from the Southern Ocean. These undersea heatwaves may be the most destructive to ecosystems, yet they often go unnoticed.

Understanding the different characteristics of marine heatwaves is crucial for predicting their occurrence and impact on our oceans. By obtaining more accurate predictions, we can take necessary measures to reduce the damage to ecosystems, tourism, and fishing industries. Ultimately, reducing carbon emissions is the key to slowing ocean warming and preventing these devastating events from occurring.

The research conducted by Australian scientists sheds light on the complex nature of marine heatwaves and emphasizes the importance of monitoring and protecting our oceans. With continued efforts to gather data and improve our understanding, we can work towards mitigating the threats posed by these heatwaves and safeguarding the diverse marine life that call our oceans home.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Related to the Above News

What are marine heatwaves?

Marine heatwaves are prolonged periods of unusually warm ocean temperatures that have a significant impact on marine ecosystems.

How do marine heatwaves affect ocean ecosystems?

Marine heatwaves can have devastating effects on ocean ecosystems. They force marine organisms to migrate in search of cooler temperatures, disrupt the balance of species, and can lead to mass die-offs of marine life.

Can marine heatwaves penetrate down to the seabed?

Yes, recent research has shown that marine heatwaves can penetrate all the way down to the seabed, affecting even the deepest parts of the ocean.

How do marine heatwaves impact marine creatures on the continental shelf?

Marine creatures on the continental shelf are particularly vulnerable to marine heatwaves. Even a slight increase in water temperature can be devastating for these sensitive creatures and lead to widespread deaths.

How are marine heatwaves affecting the seafloor?

The impact of marine heatwaves on the seafloor is often overlooked, but it can be highly damaging to ecosystems. Strong winds and currents can drive warm water down to the seafloor, creating heatwaves that harm marine life.

Are there any regions collecting long-term data on ocean temperatures?

Australia stands out as one of the few places with valuable long-term data on ocean temperatures. Oceanographic moorings off the coast of southeast Australia have been measuring daily temperatures from the surface to the seafloor since 1993.

What causes different types of marine heatwaves?

Different types of marine heatwaves have different causes. Winter marine heatwaves, for example, can occur when warm currents move towards the coast, while summer heatwaves can result from clear skies or weaker winds reducing cooling effects.

Why are undersea heatwaves particularly destructive to ecosystems?

Undersea heatwaves, which occur close to the seafloor, can be the most destructive to ecosystems. They are often driven by strong winds, bringing warm, shallow water down and causing significant harm to marine life.

Why is it important to understand marine heatwaves?

Understanding marine heatwaves is crucial for predicting their occurrence and impact on oceans. This knowledge allows us to take necessary measures to reduce damages to ecosystems, tourism, and fishing industries.

What is the key to preventing marine heatwaves?

The key to preventing marine heatwaves is reducing carbon emissions and slowing down ocean warming. By addressing climate change, we can work towards mitigating the threats posed by marine heatwaves and protecting marine life.

What is the significance of the research conducted by Australian scientists?

The research conducted by Australian scientists sheds light on the complex nature of marine heatwaves and emphasizes the importance of monitoring and protecting our oceans. It provides valuable insights that can help in mitigating the impacts of heatwaves and safeguarding marine life.

Please note that the FAQs provided on this page are based on the news article published. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is always recommended to consult relevant authorities or professionals before making any decisions or taking action based on the FAQs or the news article.

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