Warmer Water Temperatures
As average air temperatures rise, so do the average temperatures of our oceans, lakes and rivers. Open water — which is directly exposed to sunlight — is most dramatically affected.
Already, water temperatures have risen enough to affect aquatic habitats and cause some species to migrate into cooler water. By some estimates, coldwater fish in North America — salmon and trout, for example — could lose as much as half their suitable habitat if average global temperatures increase by 8 degrees Fahrenheit.
What Are the Impacts of Warmer Water?
Warmer water affects many things:
- Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water. As temperatures rise, the oxygen concentration of water declines.
- Corals are sensitive to temperature increases. Warmer-than-average waters increase the likelihood that coral reefs will suffer bleaching events.
- Hurricanes rely on warm water for fuel. A warmer Atlantic Ocean may lead to stronger or more frequent hurricanes.
- Invasive species and diseases are able to extend their ranges into new territories.
- Algal blooms may begin earlier in the season, and last longer into the fall.
Rising water temperatures are also a trigger for many other climate change impacts, such as:
- warmer air temperatures
- greater flood risk
- rising sea levels
- shifting seasons
- altered precipitation
- strengthening storms
- migrating species