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ENVIRONMENT -
-

North Atlantic Ocean Temps Hit Record High

Posted in the database on Friday, July 08th, 2005 @ 21:22:09 MST (1400 views)
from Associated Press  

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Ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic hit an all-time high last year, raising concerns about the effects of global warming on one of the most sensitive and productive ecosystems in the world.

Sea ice off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador was below normal for the tenth consecutive year and the water temperature outside St. John's Harbor was the highest on record in 2004, according to a report released Wednesday by the federal Fisheries Department.

The ocean surface off St. John's averaged almost two degrees Fahrenheit above normal, the highest in the 59 years the department has been compiling records.

And bottom temperatures were also one degree higher than normal, according the report.

"A two-degree temperature anomaly on the Grand Banks is pretty significant in the bottom areas, where temperatures only range a couple of degrees throughout the year," said Eugene Colbourne, an oceanographer with the Fisheries Department.

Water temperatures were above normal right across the North Atlantic last year, from Newfoundland to Greenland, Iceland and Norway.

The Newfoundland data is another wake-up call on climate change, say environmentalists.

Anchorage, Alaska, has seen annual snowfall shrink in the past decade, high river temperatures are killing off millions of spawning salmon in British Columbia and northern climates around the world have noticed warming.

Meanwhile, ocean temperatures have risen around the globe, and species are already dying, said Bill Wareham, acting director of marine conservation for the Vancouver-based David Suzuki Foundation.

"I don't think there's a question about whether these changes are happening," Wareham said.

But "everyone's quite shocked at the speed at which these things are changing."

Air temperatures in the Newfoundland region were also higher than normal, but Colbourne said the results are not conclusive.

Water temperatures in the cold Labrador current were actually below normal levels. And while the other temperatures were record highs, a similar warming trend occurred in the 1960s, Colbourne said.

"We really can't say for sure if what we're seeing in Newfoundland waters is a consequence of global warming, when we've only got 50 years of data or so," Colbourne said.

"It may be related to global warming but, then again, it may be just the natural cycle that we see in this area of the world."



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