A sizzling heatwave has sent temperatures soaring across much of America, causing the oceans off the coast of Florida to soar to almost 100 degre
Millions flocked to the Sunshine State to bask in the rays over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, while just off the coast the scorching temperatures could spell doom for the region’s picturesque coral reefs.
Scientists have warned that the ‘hot tub-like’ conditions are disastrous for the reefs, with ‘coral bleaching’ already devastating a majority of the ecosystem in the state.
The crisis has also brought renewed focus to the effects of ongoing global warming, with natural disasters and rising sea levels particularly hampering coastal hotspots like Florida.
A sunbather pictured enjoying the scorching weather on Miami Beach, Florida, where sea surface temperatures hit almost 100 degrees
The heatwave saw sea surface temperatures in Florida hit the highest levels since satellites began recording ocean data in 1985.
And although temperatures in the region routinely skyrocket as the summer sets in, the effects are beginning earlier this year and are set to last longer.
‘We didn’t expect this heating to happen so early in the year and to be so extreme,’ said Derek Manzello, a coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch, to CNN.
‘Ocean warming is only getting worse, bleaching events are getting more frequent, so it’s really an existential crisis for coral reefs as we know them.
‘This appears to be unprecedented in our records.’
The ‘unprecedented’ heatwave has been particularly disastrous for coral life, with similarly devastating effects seen in other parts of the world such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
When temperatures remain too high for the reefs for too long, they go through a process of ‘bleaching’, ultimately causing the coral to die off.
The condition sees the reefs expel their algal food source as they slowly starve, which also causes their vibrant color to fade.
Last year, a shocking study published by the NOAA found that over 70 percent of Florida’s coral reefs had been eroded by climate-induced coral bleaching and disease.
Scientists are warning the soaring temperatures could devastate coral reefs. Pictured: A healthy reef displaying vibrant colours
When coral reefs undergo bleaching, they expel their algal food source as they slowly starve, which also causes their color to fade
Although bleaching is not always fatal for coral reefs, it worsens the longer it goes on for, and it only takes 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit too high for bleaching to occur.
According to Manzello, the sea temperatures in Florida have been more than 2 degrees Celsius higher than average for almost two weeks.
However, he warned that the waters in the area don’t typically reach their peak until August or September, meaning Florida’s coral crisis is set to deteriorate through the summer.
He added that the effects could be ‘significant and severe’ and large amounts of coral could start dying off within a month.
‘All of the evidence right now is pointing to the fact that it’s going to be one of the more severe events we’ve seen,’ Manzello said.
The process was explained by TikTok creator Mikes Weather Page, who also warned that temperatures were already heating up in the Atlantic Ocean.
Bikini-clad beachgoers pictured on Panama City Beach, Florida, in March
A terrifying shark was spotted in the waters off Navarre Beach, Florida on July 3, as the soaring temperatures see beachgoers continue to flock to the coasts
While the reefs expert was warning of things to come, Katey Lesneski, a NOAA expert working to restore Florida’s lost coral reefs, said she is already witnessing the effects.
‘The corals look a lot lighter in color, they’re usually pretty robust tones of yellows and greens and browns and oranges, but they literally start to look like someone threw bleach on them,’ she told CNN.
‘Just from an ecological standpoint, about 25% of the marine species depend on coral reefs at some point in their lives,’ Lesneski said.
‘That’s everything from the pretty fish that people like to look at to the large game fish … those fish get their start and heavily depend on other components of the reef at some point in time.’
Millions in states like Arizona are currently under heat advisories, after a peer reviewed journal warned just two days without power could kill nearly 13,000 in Phoenix – which is currently bearing the brunt of the weather phenomenon
Florida is not alone in its struggle with the untamed heatwave currently sweeping parts of America from New York to California.
Across the southwest, over 50 million people were under extreme temperature warnings on Wednesday as meteorologists cautioned the heat could reach 120 degrees in some areas.
The temperatures are the result of a sprawling area of high pressure that covered the Four Corners, often known as a ‘heat dome’ to experts.
Authorities fear the heatwave could fry the region’s already-unreliable energy grid, and just two days without power could result in the deaths of thousands.
In Arizona, this was a particular concern as forecasters warned the state could be in the midst of its longest and hottest heatwave ever.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk