Unprecedented Warming in the North Atlantic: Is Climate Change a Culprit?

The North Atlantic is experiencing an unprecedented warming, with sea-surface temperatures soaring to almost 4 degrees Celsius above normal.

The anomalous warming is occurring in a large swath stretching almost one-third of the way across the Atlantic westward from the northwestern coast of Africa.

The North Atlantic's warmer-than-normal waters might help strengthen storms that form in the eastern Atlantic and eventually spawn hurricanes, scientists say.

The cause of the unusual warm-up isn't clear, but several factors might be at play, including the dearth of Sahara dust, decreased air pollution, and global warming trends.

Occasionally, vast swathes of desert dust from the Sahara waft across the ocean, carried by winds stirred up by a semi permanent high-pressure system dubbed the "Azores high".

But lately, the Azores high has weakened and shifted southwest away from Africa, resulting in calmer and largely dust-free winds that warm the ocean surface.

In 2020, new emissions rules kicked in for long-haul container ships that spew sulfate-rich exhaust plumes. This has led to speculation that less pollution could lead to more heating.

This year marks the return of El Niño, a climate phenomenon whose hallmark is warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperatures along the equator west of South America.

El Niño, a climate phenomenon that causes warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperatures along the equator west of South America, could be contributing to the North Atlantic's unprecedented warming.

The unusually warm waters of the North Atlantic may tend to strengthen storm systems that later develop into tropical depressions and then hurricanes.

How active this year's hurricane season will be depends on which of these forces will prevail, scientists say.

Climate change is exacerbating the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events worldwide, and the North Atlantic's unprecedented warming is another example of the planet's changing climate.

It's time to take action to address the underlying causes of climate change and the unprecedented warming of the North Atlantic.