A marine heatwave is lifting ocean temperatures off the coast of New South Wales to levels not seen in decades as the state is pummelled by severe storms.
The marine temperatures appear to be reaching levels not seen in nearly 80 years, with satellite data showing ocean surfaces three degrees Celcius above normal.
Professor Moninya Roughan said ocean temperatures at a site five kilometres from Port Hacking, Sydney, are approaching an all-time high for January.
Sea surface temperatures are abnormally high off the coast of NSW
Sea surface temperatures off the coast of NSW are abnormally high. (NOAA)

“The data shows a January maximum temperature of 23.9 degrees Celsius on 23 January, 1979,” she said.

“We are waiting on recent data later this month to confirm the measured temperatures, however, satellite data shows temperatures are approaching their all-time January high.

“We are expecting ocean temperature records to continue to be broken in coming years with widespread ecological consequences.”

These water temperatures are likely to be some of the warmest on record near Sydney in January.

Clouds and rain hang over Bondi Beach as more wet wether sets in for Sydney, 25 November 2021. Photo Jessica hromas
The current water temperatures are unusually warm for January. (Jessica Hromas)

Weatherzone said the warmest water usually occurs near the NSW coastline in February or March despite land temperatures being the hottest in January.

“This month, however, has seen an injection of unusually warm water venturing down the state’s coastline,” Ben Domensino from Weatherzone said.

“This unusually warm water has been sitting off the central coast of NSW for about a month, following a rapid increase in water temperature near Sydney in early December.

“Data on the Australian Integrated Marine Observing System’s website reveals water temperatures off the central NSW coast are currently ranking in the top 10 per cent of historical records for this time of year.”

Sea surface temperatures are abnormally high off the coast of NSW
The dark red areas are historically high temperatures for the ocean this time of year. (IMOS)

Dr Andrea Taschetto said “marine heatwaves” have been increasing in intensity and frequency due to “long-term greenhouse warming”.

“As global temperatures continue to rise, we expect to see more intense and persistent marine heatwaves occurring more often than in the past,” she said.

“Persistent high-pressure systems can increase incoming radiation to the ocean and reduce wind speed, weakening evaporation from the surface, thus keeping ocean temperatures higher than normal.”

The water is unusually warm due to climate change and the La Niña phenomenon impacting Australia this summer.

Massive swells and dangerous winds to hit the eastern coast over next two days.
Unpredictable weather has hit Australia’s east coast, bringing dangerous surf conditions. (9News)

The ocean heatwave could last months, according to Weatherzone.

“While heatwaves over land usually last for days, it takes longer for heatwaves to abate in the ocean,” Mr Domensino said.

“Water in the Tasman Sea may stay significantly warmer than average for the next few months.”

The last extreme marine heatwave occurred in the Tasman sea in 2015.

It lasted about 250 days and reached temperatures three degrees warmer than normal.

Two states battered by powerful king tide and dangerous surf

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said New South Wales, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania are in the firing line for rain and storms.

“Showers and storms likely in Vic and NSW, which may be severe,” the BoM said.

“Heavy rain leading to flooding and damaging wind gusts are the main risks and hail is possible. Tasmania to see rain and storms from Thursday.”

Source: 9News

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