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Marine heat waves may become more intense

Date: 01 February 2021 Tags: Climate Change


 A new study warns that the continued loss of mixed layer of water buffer may lead to more frequent and destructive warming events such as marine heat waves.



Researchers said that the thickness of this top layer of the ocean is responsible for marine heat events.



  • The thicker this mixed layer, the more it can act as a buffer to shield the waters below from incoming hot air.

  • The scientists found that this armour is thinning, causing the oceans to become more susceptible to rapid swings in temperature.

  • Marine heatwaves will be more intense and happen more often in the future. When the mixed layer is thin, it takes less heat to warm the ocean more.



  • Researchers used a combination of ocean observations and models to estimate the depth of the mixed layer back to 1980, and also project out into the future.

  • They found that over the last 40 years, the layer has thinned by nearly three metres in some regions of the North Pacific.

  • By 2100, they believe the mixed layer could be four metres thinner which is about 30 per cent less than what it is today.



  • This thin mixed layer combined with warmer global temperatures could set the stage for drastic swings in ocean temperatures, leading to much more frequent and extreme heating events.

  • They also warned that as the climate continues to warm and the mixed layer continues to thin, scientists might lose the ability to predict annual ocean surface temperatures.

  • Fisheries and other coastal operations could be in danger without this ability to accurately forecast ocean temperature.



A heat wave is a period of excessively hot weather, which may be accompanied by high humidity. A heat wave is usually measured relative to the usual weather in the area and relative to normal temperatures for the season.

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