Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 29 Issue 03

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Volume 29, No. 3
Pages 14 - 17


COMMENTARY • North America’s Iconic Marine Species at Risk Due To Unprecedented Ocean Warming

By Charles H. Greene  
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Global mean temperatures during 2016 are on pace to break the historical records set sequentially during 2014 and 2015. Coincident with this record-setting atmospheric warming, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) along both coasts of North America have been rising more rapidly than in most other coastal waters of the world (Figure 1). In the Gulf of Maine, SSTs have increased more rapidly during recent years than in 99.9% of the global ocean (Mills et al., 2013; Pershing et al., 2015). A multiyear heat wave along the west coast, from Mexico to Alaska, has led to SSTs exceeding historical highs by as much as 3°C during the past three years (Bond et al., 2015; Hartmann, 2015; Cavole et al., 2016). As coastal ocean heat waves become more frequent and persistent (Scannell et al., 2016), ecosystem regimes are shifting and species ranges are both contracting and expanding. In the ensuing shuffle, many of North America’s most iconic marine species are in decline and in some cases are facing the threat of local extinction.


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