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Warming seas have scientists on alert

A scientists grabbles samples of beached corals near Miami, Florida.

A scientists grabbles samples of beached corals near Miami, Florida.

REUTERS/Maria Alejandra Cardona

The Atlantic Ocean made worrying news in both Canada and the United States this week.

In Nova Scotia, three people, including two children, were killed and one is still missing after torrential rains caused flooding in the province. Both the flooding and the wildfires in the province earlier this year are blamed on higher-than-normal temperatures caused by climate change. Scientists say humid air over the unusually warm Atlantic helped cause the storm, which dumped eight inches of rain in 24 hours, washing out roads and bridges.

In the Florida Keys on Monday, a seawater sensor registered 101.1 degrees Fahrenheit (38.4 degrees Celsius), the same temperature as a hot tub, which could be the hottest sea water ever measured. A result of climate change, the unusually hot water is bad news for coral in the area.

In Denmark on Tuesday, scientists published a report warning that the warming seas could be weakening or could even stop the ocean currents that regulate the world’s climate, potentially leading to a catastrophic cooling in Europe, which is warmed by the Gulf Stream.

“We see an increase which is consistent with this approaching a tipping point,” said scientist Peter Ditlevsen.

The higher-than-normal temperatures in the Atlantic have meteorologists nervously watching the tropics as we approach hurricane season.

The heat is having dire effects on land as well. At least 25 people in Phoenix have died of heat so far this year.

The grim climate news has scientists rattled, but it remains to be seen if it will result in public pressure on political actors to do more to reduce the emissions that seem to be pushing the planet toward catastrophe. Biden is responding by announcing steps to protect people’s health during heat waves, increasing protections for workers, and providing shelter with cooling stations.


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