Looking pretty scary

The water is hot.

Water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico have been abnormally warm this summer and scientists are concerned about potential environmental impacts.

On Wednesday, a 98-degree water temperature was recorded off the coast of Everglades National Park. The reading was taken in very shallow, dark water, known to heat up very quickly. Still, water temperatures around the southwest coast of Florida and around the Florida Keys have been running about five degrees above normal for this time of the year.

Ocean temperatures take longer to heat than air temperatures. This means that peak ocean heating in the Gulf and Atlantic is normally found in August and September. Heating this early in the season has scientists worried about coral heat stress and potential bleaching.

Corals only cover about one percent of the ocean floor, but scientists say that they are home to over a quarter of all marine life and are also important for coastline protection from storms and hurricanes by breaking wave energy as it comes to shore.

But we’re cooking them.

“Our reefs already have so few corals because of all of the years of bleaching events and human impacts, and overfishing and pollution, and things like that that have impacted our reefs,” says Williamson. “If we have this really severe, just intense bleaching event that kills what’s left, I really worry that our reefs will barely even be there, I hope I’m wrong about that, but it’s looking pretty scary at the moment.”

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