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NOAA says sea surface temps highest in 150 years, here's why you should care

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Global warming skeptics may have some explaining to do as new data reveals that sea surface temperatures are the highest they have been in 150 years. Measurements of the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem are the highest scientists have seen since a previous record in 1951.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The data reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that sea surface temperatures in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem are the highest ever recorded. For the past three decades, the average temperature has been about 54.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Last year's temperatures reached 57.2 degrees.

NOAA researchers took the temperature using satellites and compared the results to historical satellite data and temperatures from ships and remote sensing networks. This data was added to the aggregate compilation, which dates back to 1854.

These temperatures matter. They affect plankton blooms and the flow and mix of water throughout the North Atlantic and across the Eastern Seaboard. This in turn, impacts populations of fish and shellfish. Some of those populations are shifting their habitats northward, a subtle but sure sign of ocean warming.

Black sea bass, summer flounder, longfin squid, butterfish, and lobster fishery populations are all migrating farther north.

These changes also impact the size of the population and can harm fisheries as habitat is lost. That means leaner catches with higher prices at market for consumers. Although American diets are rich and varied, the diets of some populations are dependent on fish and can be adversely impacted by warming oceans.

However, before we declare the sky to be falling there are some other factors that should be noted about the work. The NOAA announcement only applies to the North Atlantic, and one year out of 150 isn't itself a trend, it is simply a data point. However the data point itself is quite dramatic, relatively speaking.

While most researchers agree that the planet is warming, including the oceans, likely in part because of human activity, the full cause of this warming is still under debate. Some climatologists will argue that the human impact is negligible and that there are alternate, primary causes. And what should be done is far from decided.

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