climate change, rise in sea temperatures

Temperature in the Mediterranean Sea reaches worrying levels

Scientists warn: the increase in temperature in the sea due to climate change, is causing massive deaths of species.

Scientists are alarmed: the temperature in the Mediterranean Sea is reaching worrying levels, with water temperatures even exceeding 30ºC for several days this summer, which is pushing marine ecosystems to the limit and could have catastrophic consequences for this region of the planet.

From the coasts of Spain to those of Israel, climate experts agree that recorded water temperatures are between 3 and 5 Celsius degrees above normal for this time of year, amid an unprecedented drought in Europe that is causing heat waves with hundreds of deaths and a wave of devastating wildfires throughout the Mediterranean basin.

The heat waves unleashed by the effects of climate change are already causing visible damage to the fauna, flora and human habitats on the surface; but its less visible consequences are also being felt at sea, where, as on land, heat waves are also becoming more frequent, more intense and more persistent. The current levels of temperatures in the Mediterranean, around 30 ºC, even exceed those reached by the water in the Caribbean and are typical of the Tropics.

Researchers such as Joaquim Garrabou, from the Barcelona Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC), who has participated in a recently published study on heat waves in the Mediterranean between 2015 and 2019, do not hesitate to describe the situation they see as “very worrying.” The conclusions of the study are devastating: heat waves and rising sea temperatures are leading to “mass mortality” of species in the sea.

Marine species are at the limit of survival

“We are pushing systems beyond limits. We have to take action on the climate as soon as possible”, says Garrabou. “We are receiving information from different places in the Mediterranean, such as Mallorca and Sardinia. We are already observing mass death events of various species, such as corals, sponges or algae. It is also affecting aquaculture facilities,” he explains.

The study mentions some 50 marine species that have been seriously affected along thousands of kilometers of the Mediterranean coast, the situation being especially worrying in the Eastern Mediterranean: there, marine biologists such as Gil Rilov, professor at the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute (IOLR) and one of the experts who participated in the study, assure that the waters that bathe Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria have become “the warmest places in the Mediterranean“.

In that region, the waters of the Mediterranean Sea are registering temperatures constantly above 31 degrees during the summer, pushing many species to the limit of their chances of survival “because every summer, their optimum temperature is being exceeded,” Rilov says. The records are clear: between 1982 and 2018, the temperature of the Mediterranean Sea has been steadily increasing at a rate of 4ºC per decade.