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NOAA scientists found mysterious heatwaves at the bottom of the ocean

Published Apr 1st, 2023 9:01AM EDT
deep ocean with light coming in
Image: donfiore / Adobe

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The bottom of the ocean experiences heatwaves, too. That might seem like common sense, but until recently, scientists weren’t aware that ocean heatwaves spread across the bottom of the ocean, too. Instead, they believed that they were only found on the surface. Thankfully new research has helped shed light on this important truth. 

Scientists have spent the past decade observing and researching surface-level heatwaves in the ocean, completely unaware that those swelting and destroying changes could also be found deep beneath the surface. Discovering that these marine heatwaves also spread across the depths of the ocean is important, because changes in the ocean’s temperature can drive animals to extinction.

Back in 2013, a marine heatwave that became known as “The Blob” appeared off the Alaskan coast, spreading as far south as Mexico. The heatwave stuck around longer than scientists anticipated, leading to the destruction of fisheries and even triggering the spawn of toxic algal blossoms. While it was important to watch these changes, scientists were completely unaware of heatwaves spreading through the bottom of the ocean.

heatwaves spread along the bottom of the ocean, too
Heatwaves were previously believed to only exist at the surface of the ocean. Image source: MARIMA/Adobe

Now, though, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has created a new model which accounts for the heatwaves found along the bottom of the ocean, too. It’s much more difficult to monitor the temperatures down there, though, as it requires equipment that can detect the minute temperature changes while also surviving the pressure of the depth. 

This new research is important because heatwaves found in the depths of the ocean last much longer than those on the surface – and if The Blob was able to cause such havoc when it stuck around longer than expected, imagine the damage that a massive heatwave at the ocean bottom could cause if it went unchecked and unknown. The results might be seen throughout the world, but humanity wouldn’t know what was causing it. 

Now, thanks to the new model, we’ll finally have a bit more of an idea of what’s going on in the depths. Of course, there’s probably still a lot we don’t know. The ocean depths continue to be a mysterious playground for scientists, especially as we continue to discover strange creatures at the bottom of the ocean. 

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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