"In Hot Water: World Sets Ocean Temperature Record"

"Steve Kramer spent an hour and a half swimming in the ocean Sunday — in Maine. The water temperature was 72 degrees — more like Ocean City, Md., this time of year. And Ocean City's water temp hit 88 degrees this week, toasty even by Miami Beach standards.

Kramer, 26, who lives in the seaside town of Scarborough, said it was the first time he's ever swam so long in Maine's coastal waters. "Usually, you're in five minutes and you're out," he said.

It's not just the ocean off the Northeast coast that is super-warm this summer. July was the hottest the world's oceans have been in almost 130 years of record-keeping.

The average water temperature worldwide was 62.6 degrees, according to the National Climatic Data Center, the branch of the U.S. government that keeps world weather records. That was 1.1 degree higher than the 20th century average, and beat the previous high set in 1998 by a couple hundredths of a degree. The coolest recorded ocean temperature was 59.3 degrees in December 1909.

Meteorologists said there's a combination of forces at work this year: A natural El Nino system just getting started on top of worsening man-made global warming, and a dash of random weather variations. The resulting ocean heat is already harming threatened coral reefs. It could also hasten the melting of Arctic sea ice and help hurricanes strengthen."

Seth Borenstein reports for the Associated Press August 20, 2009.

Friday, August 21, 2009