2023 was the hottest year on record on the planet. Earth — and that includes the world’s oceans, where records fell like dominoes. Last week, nearly 5,000 scientists gathered in New Orleans for the American Geophysical Union’s biennial Ocean Sciences Meeting. Environment Reporter James Dineen was there to take the temperature of researchers, who are looking at change after change in the oceans. You can listen to the segment at approximately 05:00 in the embedded player or read the transcript below.


James Dunn: The world’s largest gathering of marine scientists had one thing on their minds: heat.

England: “Warming over the past two decades, but particularly in 2023, has dominated the field.”

James: Matthew England is an oceanographer at the University of New South Wales in Australia. He was one of thousands of marine scientists who gathered in New Orleans to discuss the latest research on what’s happening in the ocean.

There are presentations on everything from new species of octopus to robotic flying fish. But rising temperatures are stealing the show.

England: “Our burning of fossil fuels, our emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we know it’s trapped heat, we know more than 90 percent of it has gone into the oceans.”

Last year’s average sea surface temperature broke the previous record, rising by about 0.2 degrees Celsius above 2022 levels. The amount of heat at 2,000 meters above sea level also broke records. And there were extreme oceanic heat waves from the Atlantic Ocean to the Sea of ​​Japan.

England: “This was the first year on record where it was hard to find a part of the ocean that wasn’t warmer than average.”

Researchers here are trying to understand the drivers of this warming and its consequences.

Take the mystery of Antarctica’s sea ice, which was surprisingly strong until 2016. This year, it dropped drastically. In 2022 it set another record low that was broken again in 2023 when Antarctic winter ice failed to recover.

But perhaps the most obscure victim of 2023 temperatures was coral reefs. Large areas of coral bleached and died, particularly around the Florida Keys in the Gulf of Mexico.

Ian at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studies reefs in the Enoch Keys. Seeing so many corals die was a harrowing experience, he says, but it only drove home the urgent need for action.

Enochs: “Some people will look at it and be put off. And I’ve seen the exact opposite. I’ve seen people come together and be so motivated to actually do something meaningful that it’s Be able to face.

Take Amy April at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, who is working on ways to restore coral ecosystems. There are many ideas. But a new method his team is working on will use it underwater. the sound.

April: Sound is the primary signal used by reef organisms. We know this as part of their communication strategy, and something they rely on to create a healthy environment.

In tests on a reef in the Virgin Islands, researchers found that underwater broadcast recordings of a healthy reef ecosystem increased the rate of coral larvae attached to the reef. This can help make coral recovery more efficient in the face of rising temperatures.

Apple: It’s just been an incredible year. But the piece that I’m holding on to and what keeps me hopeful is that we’re just getting started, we’re just scratching the surface of putting these solutions into practice.