Sydney is facing an “extreme marine heatwave”, with researchers saying ocean temperatures are approaching record levels for January.
Scientists warned warmer sea temperatures – which are tied to the climate crisis – posed risks for natural habitats.
Professor Moninya Roughan, an oceanographer at the University of New South Wales, said ocean temperatures off Sydney were edging towards an “all-time high” since records began 80 years ago.
Satellite images from Australia’s Bureau of Meterology showed temperatures were up to 3C higher than normal on Tuesday.
In some areas, the sea temperature off the coast of New South Wales was as high as 25C.
— Prof Moninya Roughan (@moninya) January 4, 2022
Prof Roughan told The Guardian she was waiting for data from an ocean temperature monitoring system in Port Hacking, which has assessed levels since the 1950s. But she said: “It appears now to be reaching those record levels and will likely be the hottest January on record.”
The oceanographer added: “It’s an extreme marine heatwave.”
Scientists have warned over what this could mean for marine life facing warmer temperatures.
Prof Rob Harcourt, a marine ecologist at Macquarie University in Sydney told The Guardian: “A lot of animals will do poorly. A lot of animals that live in cooler waters, like seals and sharks, have a habitat that’s shrinking fast and the implications are hard to measure, but it’s likely to be dramatic.”
Scientists warned last year that rising ocean temperatures could be behind an “unprecedented” increase in the number of whales being found entangled in fishing gear.
Rising average temperatures are believed to be responsible for marine heatwaves happening more often and with greater intensity.
Scientists found deadly ocean heatwaves that happened in 2016 were made over 50 times more likely by the climate crisis.