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Burning ring of fire: Mapping high ocean temps off Florida coast

July 14, 2023  - By

The ocean off the Gulf of Mexico is undergoing a marine heat wave that could pose a threat to coral reefs, as water temperatures reach 90°F. A coral reef watch map, provided by the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows that the water near the Florida Keys is significantly higher than usual, which causes coral bleaching and other marine life concerns.

Image: NOAA

Image: NOAA

The Gulf of Mexico is not the only place that is suffering this marine heat wave. 40% of the globe is experiencing extreme temperatures, Dillon Amaya, a physical scientist at NOAA, stated in an interview with the New York Times.  

This map provides water temperatures globally. The blue-green colors represent cooler temperatures whereas yellow-orange colors represent hot temperatures. (Image: NOAA)

This map provides water temperatures globally. The blue-green colors represent cooler temperatures whereas yellow-orange colors represent hot temperatures. (Image: NOAA)

The current water temperatures are the hottest ever recorded. Scientists say that these high temperatures are typical, but not until August or September. It is only July. 

The marine heat wave is mainly due to a climate phenomenon, El Niño, that typically brings warmer ocean temperatures. However, now El Niño is coming on top of long-term warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions and worldwide contribution to global warming.  

When sea temperatures rise too high, corals bleach, expelling the algae they need to live. If the water does not cool quickly enough, and if bleaching events happen frequently, the corals die. Coral reefs are vital to the marine life that relies on them and 25% of all marine life — including more than 4,000 kinds of fish — depends on reefs, according to NOAA. 

This article is tagged with , , and posted in Featured Stories, Latest News, Mapping

About the Author: Maddie Saines

Maddie was a managing editor at GPS World.