Near real-time data shows record rise in North Atlantic sea surface temperatures

The sea surface temperature in 2023 is much higher than the mean (1982–2011) and began to increase substantially about six weeks ago

Record-breaking high sea surface temperatures are being felt around the UK, the Atlantic Ocean and in oceans across the globe. The fast heating of the sea surface is being measured at the PAP-SO. This open-ocean observatory in the northeast Atlantic Ocean is operated by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), in collaboration with the Met Office.

The mean June sea surface temperature in 2023 (so far, 16.52°C) is more than 1.66°C above the mean between 1982 and 2011 (14.86°C) obtained from the Met Office data set ‘HadISST’ for the site. The rapid warming started about six weeks ago, much earlier in the year than normal.

Dr Jennifer Durden, part of the PAP-SO science team, said, “This is an unusual and concerning rise in temperature for June so far. If the sea surface temperature continues to rise for the rest of the month, the June mean would be even higher than the current estimate.” (shown by the red dot in the main figure).

Climatic change has far-reaching implications for global ecosystems and climate. Substantial changes in climatic conditions have previously been connected to changes in upper ocean biogeochemistry and plankton, and to the types of seabed organisms measured at the observatory. Sea surface temperature increases also lead to changes in the atmospheric circulation, impacting European weather. At global scales, changes in ocean temperature affect the ocean circulation, the amount of carbon being sequestered to the deep sea, and the distribution of heat and nutrients in the ocean.

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The Porcupine Abyssal Plain Sustained Observatory is currently the only long-term time series site in the world that monitors the ocean from the surface to the abyssal seabed, and it has been operational for more than 30 years. Near real-time measurements from the surface portion of the observatory are available online.