Questions for ‘World’s oceans have warmed to a ‘point of no return’

illustration of Earth showing the Blob in the eastern Pacific Ocean

From 2013 to 2016, a mass of sweltering water in the eastern Pacific Ocean — known as the Blob — wreaked havoc on marine ecosystems. This illustration shows how unusually hot the waters were in May 2015. The deepest red represents 3 degrees Celsius above average.

Chelle Gentemann, Charles Thompson and Jeffrey R. Hall/PO.DAAC/JPL

To accompany World’s oceans have warmed to a ‘point of no return


Before Reading:

  1. Perhaps you’ve been out all afternoon in the summer sun on a day that weathercasters confirm was extremely hot. How do you feel? How has it affected your behavior, appetite and ability to rest or sleep?
  2. How do you think fish or marine mammals would be affected if caught in an extremely hot pool of sun-warmed water? Describe several changes you’d expect to see in them.

During Reading:

  1. What share of the world’s ocean surface was extremely warm by 2019?
  2. How many years of ocean-temperature data did two marine ecologists review to arrive at that number?
  3. In what year did Earth’s ocean surface hit “a point of no return,” according to Kyle Van Houtan? What does he mean when he uses that phrase?
  4. How do he and Kisei Tanaka define a marine heat wave?
  5. What are some impacts that extreme ocean heat can cause in ocean life, according to the story?

After Reading:

  1. When the weather is warm, fill a half-liter (or larger) bowl with water and let it sit indoors overnight. Measure its temperature the next morning and write it down. Later in the day, set the water outdoors in strong, mid-day sunlight for two hours. Before bringing it in, measure its temperature again and write it down. Was there a change? If yes, now put the bowl of water indoors for another two hours. Measure it once more and write the value down. How has the temperature changed? What does this tell you about how well water can collect and store energy as heat from the sun? What does it suggest about how easily the water can overheat? What does the final temperature tell you about how easily water sheds that heat?