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On Track for the Warmest Global Ocean Temperatures on Record

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has recently released data revealing that May-October 2014 were record breaking months for ocean temperatures. Each of these months have exceeded their all-time high temperatures, placing 2014 squarely in the running to become the hottest year since record keeping began. Although records only date back to 1880, according to a new study, ice cores reveal that this could be the warmest the ocean has been since the hottest period in Earth’s history, the Holocene. Not only are these temperatures breaking all-time records since records have been kept, they are also breaking 4,000 year old records found from the account of earth herself.

These temperatures have even been reached without the help of El Niño, an oceanographic event which is defined by increased sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. According to NOAA’s climate prediction center, however, El Niño has a 60% chance of occurring during the winter months of North America, which could further increase ocean temperatures. The combination of El Niño with six months of high sea surface temps could mean extreme numbers. This year is shaping up to be the warmest year ever recorded.

Seabirds are going to be feeling these effects. Available resources are going to shift as fish favorites are either going deeper or farther out to sea. Our feathered friends are going to have to expend more energy to feed themselves and their young, which could lead to more mass die-offs. Long term monitoring and research studies will be most helpful in evaluating the full effects of what this warm year-and the possibility of warmer yet to come-may have in store.

Posted on November 21st, 2014

Icelandic Seabirds at Risk from Global Warming

Icelandic seabirds, as well as those throughout the North Atlantic, are suffering from the effects of global warming says National Geographic in their latest news article. The puffins, murres, kittiwakes, and terns that formerly graced the skies and rocky islands of Iceland are now so low in number that it has sparked concern across the world about seabird survival.

The small rocky islands around Iceland are a major breeding ground for at least 23 species, including black murres, atlantic puffins, razorbills, northern fulmars, great skuas, and black legged kittiwakes. These particular species nest so heavily there that a blow to their populations around Iceland is a devastating blow species wide. Many island biologists that have been monitoring the breeding of these birds for years are reporting devastation to the chicks and breeding birds around the island. The adults are abandoning nests and chicks in order to survive, or not nesting altogether to save their own energy.

How is global warming to blame? Rising sea temperatures are pushing food sources of the seabirds farther north to the cooler waters, and birds are unable to catch enough for themselves and their young as they are loyal to their breeding grounds. Warming temperatures also mean unseasonal storms blowing through, disrupting breeding cycles and causing major die off of young seabirds.

The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna concluded that if things continue as they are predicted and the temperature of the seas continues to rise, it will cause a shrinking of the range of the arctic and the habitat of the species that rely on it. This means more competition for resources between species and individuals, and possible extinction of high arctic species as their habitat disappears altogether.

Although the future seems bleak as global warming's effects are felt by these seabirds, it is not all doom and gloom! Despite failed breeding seasons, these species are long-lived and will try again next year, hoping for better circumstances.

Posted on October 4th, 2014