HAMBURG, Germany — A massive “warming pool” in the northeast Pacific has been discovered by scientists, a new study reveals. A team at the University of Hamburg notes that this phenomenon is over 1.1 million square miles is size and is almost certainly man-made.
The study adds this pool is likely the result of human-created greenhouse gases emissions. It is also likely responsible for the growing number of extreme heatwaves in the region and the disruption of marine life in the Pacific.
“This warming pool will continue to increase the water temperature in the future, increasing both the frequency and intensity of local marine heatwaves. The sharp increase in average water temperature is pushing ecosystems to their limits,” explains Dr. Armineh Barkhordarian, an expert on atmospheric science and member of Universität Hamburg’s Cluster of Excellence “Climate, Climatic Change, and Society” (CLICCS), in a university release.
The study also confirmed that this giant pool is not the result of natural climate shifts, adding that there is a 99-percent possibility that man-made emissions are to blame.
Another ‘Pacific Ocean Blob’
Researchers say the growing pool is likely responsible for recent marine disasters, including the deadly “Pacific Ocean Blob” from 2014 to 2015. The rising temperatures led to faltering marine productivity, toxic algal blooms, and the death of countless seabirds and marine mammals. The blob also caused severe droughts along the west coast of the United States.
The latest extreme heatwave in the area lasted for three years, spanning from 2019 to 2021. Water temperatures rose by nearly 11 degrees Fahrenheit above typical norms. The study notes that the chances of such a heatwave developing without human influence is less than one percent.
Over the last 25 years, the surface water temperature over the warming pool has increased by roughly 0.09 degrees per year. This region is also cooling less in the winter, while summer is now lasting 37 days longer. Meanwhile, there have been 31 marine heatwaves in the northeast Pacific over the last two decades. There were only nine between 1982 and 1999.
“More frequent and extreme marine heatwaves are a serious burden for affected ecosystems. This not only poses a tremendous threat to biodiversity; it can also push these marine ecosystems past a tipping point, after which they can no longer recover,” Barkhordarian concludes. “The discovery of the long-term warming pool will now provide us with crucial information on the likelihood of such extreme events in the future.”
The study is published in the Nature Communications Earth and Environment.