SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

In hot water: Florida ocean hits hot tub level, may have set record as coral dies

Jul 25, 2023, 6:18 PM | Updated: 7:02 pm

In this image provide by NOAA, the sun shines on coral showing sign of bleaching at Cheeca Rocks of...

In this image provide by NOAA, the sun shines on coral showing sign of bleaching at Cheeca Rocks off the coast of Islamorada, Fla., on July 23, 2023. Scientists have seen devastating effects from prolonged hot water surrounding Florida — coral bleaching and some death. (Andrew Ibarra/NOAA via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Andrew Ibarra/NOAA via AP)

The water temperature on the tip of Florida hit hot tub levels, exceeding 100 degrees (37.8 degrees Celsius) two days in a row. And meteorologists say that could potentially be the hottest seawater ever measured, although there are some issues with the reading.

Just 26 miles (40 kilometers) away, scientists saw devastating effects from prolonged hot water surrounding Florida — devastating coral bleaching and even some death in what had been one of the Florida Keys’ most resilient reefs. Climate change has been setting temperature records across the globe this month.

Weather records for sea water temperature are unofficial, and there are certain conditions in this reading that could disqualify it for a top mark, meteorologists said. But the initial reading on a buoy at Manatee Bay hit 101.1 degrees (38.4 Celsius) Monday evening, according to National Weather Service meteorologist George Rizzuto. On Sunday night the same buoy showed an online reading of 100.2 (37.9 Celsius) degrees.

“It seems plausible,” Rizzuto said. “That is a potential record.”

While there aren’t official water temperature records, a 2020 study listed a 99.7 degree (37.6 Celsius) mark in Kuwait Bay in July 2020 as the world’s highest recorded sea surface temperature. Rizzuto said a new record from Florida is plausible because nearby buoys measured in the 98 and 99 (36.7 and 37.2 Celsius) degree range.

“This is a hot tub. I like my hot tub around 100, 101, (37.8, 38.3 Celsius). That’s what was recorded yesterday,” said Yale Climate Connections meteorologist Jeff Masters. Hot tub maker Jacuzzi recommends water between 100 and 102 degrees (37.8 and 38.9 Celsius).

“We’ve never seen a record-breaking event like this before,” Masters said.

But he and University of Miami tropical meteorologist Brian McNoldy said while the hot temperatures fit with what’s happening around Florida, it may not be accepted as a record because the area is shallow, has sea grasses in it and may be influenced by warm land in the nearby Everglades National Park.

Still, McNoldy said, “it’s amazing.”

The fact that two 100 degree measurements were taken in consecutive days gives credence to the readings, McNoldy said. Water temperatures have been in the upper 90s in the area for more than two weeks.

There aren’t many coral reefs in Manatee Bay, but elsewhere in the Florida Keys, scientists diving at Cheeca Rocks found bleaching and even death in some of the Keys most resilient corals, said Ian Enochs, lead of the coral program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.

NOAA researcher Andrew Ibarra, who took his kayak to the area because of the hot water, said, “I found that the entire reef was bleached out. Every single coral colony was exhibiting some form of paling, partial bleaching or full out bleaching.”

Some coral even had died, he said. This is on top of bleaching seen last week by the University of Miami as NOAA increased the level of alert for coral problems earlier this month.

Until the 1980s coral bleaching was mostly unheard of around the globe yet “now we’ve reached the point where it’s become routine,” Enochs said. Bleaching, which doesn’t kill coral but weakens it and could lead to death, occurs when water temperatures pass the upper 80s (low 30s Celsius), Enochs said.

“This is more, earlier than we have ever seen,” Enochs said. “I’m nervous by how early this is occurring.”

This all comes as sea surface temperatures worldwide have broken monthly records for heat in April, May and June, according to NOAA. And temperatures in the North Atlantic are off the charts — as much as 9 to 11 degrees (5 to 6 degrees Celsius) warmer than normal in some spots near Newfoundland, McNoldy said.


Follow AP’s climate and environment coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment


Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears


Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

KSL 5 TV Live

Science & Technology

FILE: The AT&T logo outside of AT&T corporate headquarters on March 13, 2020, in Dallas, Texas. (Ph...

Michelle Chapman, AP Business Writer

Data of nearly all AT&T customers downloaded to third-party platform in a 2022 security breach

The data of nearly all AT&T customers was downloaded to a third-party platform in a 2022 security breach, the company said Friday.

4 hours ago

CORTE MADERA, CALIFORNIA - JULY 02: In an aerial view, a Caltrans changeable message sign on Highwa...

Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer

June sizzles to 13th straight monthly heat record. String may end soon, but dangerous heat won’t

Earth's more than year-long streak of record-shattering hot months kept on simmering through June, according to the European climate service Copernicus.

4 days ago

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 24: A NASA graphic is seen inside the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility during a ...

Carlysle Price

Crew of NASA’s earthbound simulated Mars habitat emerge after a year

The crew of a NASA mission to Mars emerged from their craft after a yearlong voyage that never left Earth.

5 days ago

Crews at Millcreek Common preparing light show drones for the city's Fourth of July celebration on ...

Brian Carlson

Millcreek prepping drones for its Independence Day spectacular

For the second year in a row, Millcreek is celebrating the Fourth of July with a drone light show instead of the typical fireworks, and it's not the only city doing so.

9 days ago

This July 2, 2018 image provided by Claudia Marsicano shows an image of the nearly complete skeleto...

ADITHI RAMAKRISHNAN AP Science Writer

Fossils show huge salamanderlike predator with sharp fangs existed before the dinosaurs

Scientists have identified a giant salamanderlike predator with sharp fangs that likely ruled waters 280 million years ago. The creature existed before the dinosaurs and likely used its wide, flat head to suck in prey.

9 days ago

The grapes stored in their original packaging became the softest at the end of the experiment while...

Ashley Strickland, CNN

Modern grapes exist because the dinosaurs died out, new research finds

New research has found that the existence of the grapes we eat and drink may be tied to the extinction of dinosaurs.

10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

young male technician is repairing a printer at office...

Les Olson

Unraveling the dilemma between leasing and buying office technology

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to make an informed decision that best suits your business growth and day-to-day operation. 

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse....

Lighting Design

A room-by-room lighting guide for your home

Bookmark this room-by-room lighting guide whenever you decide to upgrade your lighting or style a new home.

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

In hot water: Florida ocean hits hot tub level, may have set record as coral dies