'Could be a world record': South Florida ocean temperature hits 101.1°F

'Could be a world record': South Florida ocean temperature hits 101.1°F
081103-N-1635S-005 PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 3, 2008) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) stands by as plane guard for the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) as the sun sets over the horizon. The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility operating in the western Pacific and Indian oceans. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Scott/Released)

A buoy positioned roughly 40 miles south of Miami recorded a sea surface temperature of 101.1°F earlier this week, stunning scientists who say the reading could mark the latest in a string of global records as fossil fuel-driven extreme weather around the world brings unprecedented heat.

Meteorologist Jeff Masters wrote that the temperature in Florida's Manatee Bay reached hot tub levels on Monday and "could be a world record."

"I have no doubt a dip in Manatee Bay today would have been a hot tub-like experience, with [sea surface temperatures] near 100°F, and that these waters were some of the hottest ever recorded on Earth," Masters added. "A detailed investigation would be needed to determine if this was a world record SST, though."

A 2020 study suggested that the highest sea surface temperature ever recorded was 99.7°F in Kuwait Bay.

The Manatee Bay reading was "among several extreme values in South Florida's offshore waters," The Washington Postreported Tuesday.

"To the southwest, a buoy near Johnson Key topped out at 98.4 degrees. The temperature hovered at or above 98 degrees for several hours during the evening," the Post noted. "A majority of buoys in the area reached or surpassed 95 degrees during the day. In fact, the average of the two dozen observation locations in and around Florida Bay was right around 96 degrees during the early evening."

Last year was the hottest on record for Earth's oceans, and 2023 is shaping up to be the fifth consecutive year in which global ocean temperatures reach new highs. According to the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), "Global average sea surface temperatures last month reached unprecedented levels for June."

"The North Atlantic Ocean recorded exceptionally warm sea surface temperatures, with several extreme marine heatwaves," C3S added. "These were related to short-term changes in atmospheric circulation and longer-term changes in the ocean."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) observed earlier this month that it has "tracked a steady climb in ocean temperatures since April 2023, which is causing unprecedented heat stress conditions in the Caribbean Basin, including waters surrounding Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico." Oceans absorb 90% of excess heat associated with planetary heating, according to NOAA.

"Developing tropical storms that pass into the region may strengthen as a result of these conditions," NOAA stressed. "The ongoing marine heat wave in South Florida could impact sensitive marine ecosystems in the region, such as shallow water corals."

The Coral Restoration Foundation said this past weekend that it found "100% coral mortality" at Sombrero Reef, a restoration site in the Florida Keys.

"Climate change is our present reality," said R. Scott Winters, the foundation's CEO. "The impact on our reefs is undeniable. This crisis must serve as a wake-up call, emphasizing the need for globally concerted efforts to combat climate change."

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