Extreme Temperatures Sweeping Oceans “Like Wildfires”

Heatwaves are destroying corals and kelp.

Humanity will finally touch the deepest corners of the world's oceans
Getty Images/EyeEm

Research published in Nature Climate Change revealed that in the 30 years leading up to 2016, the number of  days in the world’s oceans experiencing heatwaves soared by more than 50%, The Guardian reports.

As the oceans warm for days on end, important species that are critical to the ecosystem like kelp forests, coral reefs, and seagrass meadows are destroyed.

“You have heatwave-induced wildfires that take out huge areas of forest, but this is happening underwater as well,” Dan Smale, who led the research  at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, UK. “You see the kelp and seagrasses dying in front of you. Within weeks or months they are just gone, along hundreds of kilometres of coastline.”

Thanks to the natural El Niño cycle of the ocean as well as global warming raising the overall temperature of the world’s oceans, when a heatwave strikes it could be even more devastating for the marine wildlife.

“The starting temperature is much higher, so the absolute temperatures [in a heatwave] are that much higher and more stressful,” Smale explained. Some of the wildlife in the heatwave’s area could swim to cooler waters, but often they can’t swim fast enough to cool off.

Scientists believe the underwater heatwaves could have “major socioeconomic and political ramifications.”

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