Marine heat waves across the world’s oceans can displace habitat for sea turtles, whales, and other marine life by 10s to thousands of kilometers.
Marine heat waves across the world’s oceans can displace habitat for sea turtles, whales, and other marine life by 10s to thousands of kilometers. They dramatically shift these animals’ preferred temperatures in a fraction of the time that climate change is expected to do the same, new research shows.
To measure that temporary dislocation of ocean surface temperatures, which can in turn drive ecological changes, NOAA scientists have now introduced a new metric called “thermal displacement.” A research paper describing the changes and the means of measuring them was published in the journal Nature this week.
Research scientist Michael Jacox of NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center called it a powerful new way of looking at marine heatwaves.
“When the environment changes, many species move,” Jacox said. “This research helps us understand and measure the degree of change they may be responding to.”
Read more: NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region
The range of smooth hammerhead sharks shifted north as much 2,800 kilometers, more than 1,700 miles, during a major marine heatwave that affected the northeast Pacific Ocean from 2013 into 2015. The heatwave was known as “The Blob.” (Photo Credit: Richard Herrmann/NOAA Fisheries)