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Bathtub-hot temperatures of seawater in Florida put marine life at risk


A blue-striped grunt explores a coral reef in Key West, Florida. — AFP/File
A blue-striped grunt explores a coral reef in Key West, Florida. — AFP/File

Recent reports from US media indicate that the seawater in Manatee Bay, Florida has reached its highest-ever temperature, equivalent to that of a hot bathtub after many scientists attributed climate change to the recent heatwaves.

The temperatures were measured over the course of Sunday and Monday, with two other nearby areas experiencing similar readings.

In 2020, unofficial reports had shown that the highest-ever ocean temperature was recorded in Kuwait Bay, which reached 37.6°C.

The increasing temperatures pose a threat to the ecosystem, endangering marine life and the balance of the environment.

Scientists have observed bleaching and mortality in some of Florida Keys’ most resilient reefs which are home to millions of algae and microorganisms.

Rising ocean temperatures of up to 35°C cause corals to expel algae, leading to bleaching, loss of vibrant colour, and a weakened state.

“The corals are pale, it looks like the colour’s draining out,” said Katey Lesneski, a research and monitoring coordinator with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“And some individuals are stark white. And we still have more to come.”

Peak bleaching typically happens in late August or September, but experts stated it is taking place “much sooner than expected this year as the water temperatures rise.”

NOAA this week raised its coral bleaching warning system in the Keys to Alert Level 2, its highest heat stress level, according to BBC.

“This is a hot tub. I like my hot tub around 100, 101, (37.8, 38.3°C) That’s what was recorded yesterday,” Yale Climate Connections meteorologist Jeff Masters told the US media.

It is recommended that hot water temperatures should be 37-40C (98-104°F).

Warm waters also pose a threat to fishermen and others whose livelihoods are associated with the water, with knock-on effects on the human food supply.

One fishing boat captain in Key Largo told the Guardian his catch has been getting “slower and slower” over the past five summers.

Ocean surface temperatures worldwide have broken heat records for the months of April, May and June, according to the US government agency.


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