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Scientists are puzzled by a rapid increase in the temperature of the world’s oceans. The daily surface temperature between 60°N and 60°S reached a record high on March 31st – the highest temperature in the NOAA record that started in 1981.

It occurs as we are moving from persistent La Nina into El Nino conditions which could later this year increase global ocean temperatures by more than half a degree Celsius.

Many factors have been postulated to be contribution to this temperature spurt. Sunspots are set to reach a high maximum sooner than expected this solar cycle. In 2022 the Tonga submarine volcano eruption added a huge amount of water vapour into the atmosphere. Also in 2022 the International Maritime Organisation issued a ban on pollution from ships reducing their sulphur emissions. This reduced the blanket of reflective aerosol particles reflecting sunlight back into space before it reached the oceans, thereby potentially heating it.

The temperature of the North Atlantic has been at a record high for some time surpassing 20°0C at the end of March. This is curious because at this time of the year North Atlantic sea surface temperature are usually at their annual low. Sea surface temperatures are also high in the Pacific presaging a coming El Nino.

Because of its speed scientists are not yet linking this to the steady movements of climate change seen so far in the oceans. It might be natural variability, but whatever its explanation it is not replicated in most climate models.

Since this event comes in anticipation of a strong El Nino that if it occurs will make 2024 the warmest year on record it has been suggested that the world warmed in steps whereby an El Nino signifies the transition to a higher temperature than before. Among the first to suggest this as an effect was the GWPF and we also repeat that this is not well represented in climate models whose projections play such an important role in the climate debate.