Tides of Change: The Decision Domino Effect of Sea Surface Temperatures

August 31, 2023


Matthieu Taymans

Tides of Change: The Decision Domino Effect of Sea Surface Temperatures

Consecutive heatwaves brought scorching temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius to certain European regions in July, potentially setting a new record for the hottest month ever documented worldwide. According to experts, Europe is experiencing a more rapid warming trend compared to many other parts of the world.

Sea surface temperature (SST) holds vital significance, situated between the ocean and atmosphere, driving local weather and global climate. Since April 2023, ocean temperatures have hit unprecedented records, impacting global currents, atmospheric circulation, and local weather.  

On the one hand, as peak holiday season arrives, warmer seas attract tourists seeking enjoyment. On the other hand, coastal communities are under threat due to rising sea surface temperatures (SST). This warming of the waters intensifies storms, leading to potential destruction, flooding, and erosion. The increase in sea levels, driven by both thermal expansion and melting ice, requires these communities to adapt. Moreover, coastal economies are suffering due to reduced tourism, declining property values, and disrupted livelihoods. The interplay between human actions and changing sea temperatures is also reshaping maritime ecosystems and threatening marine life.

Heatwaves Disturbing the Depths – Greece's Mussel Harvest in the Aegean Sea

The tranquillity of the Aegean Sea conceals a pressing issue that threatens Greece's beloved mussel harvest. The culprit? Escalating temperatures resulting from extreme heat events, a direct outcome of shifting climate patterns. This quiet yet persistent factor is fundamentally altering the marine ecosystem, presenting significant challenges to both the customs and livelihoods of coastal communities.

In the embrace of the Aegean Sea, where mussels have flourished for generations, an ongoing transformation unfolds due to heatwave-driven disruptions. Elevated sea surface temperatures, propelled by recurrent heatwaves, unsettle the delicate equilibrium of marine life. Mussels, integral to the coastal ecosystem, are notably susceptible to these temperature fluctuations, affecting their growth, reproduction, and survival. During this summer the planet felt the heatwaves effects more than ever, according to NOAA’s monthly report “July 2023 set a record for the highest monthly sea surface temperature anomaly (+0.99°C or +1.78°F) of any month in NOAA's 174-year record”, and obviously Greece’s mussel harvest suffered the impacts on its full extension.

Authorities in Greece have reported that close to half of this year's mussel harvest was decimated due to a scorching heatwave this summer. Temperatures in the country rose above 45°C this July and ocean temperatures reached 28°C, causing heat stress in mussels and other bivalve species. This unprecedented heatwave, marking the hottest weather in decades, wreaked havoc not only by ravaging a big part of the mussel seed crucial for next year's yield but also by profoundly affecting the current season's production.

Peering Down from Above: Satellite Insights

In the realm of science and technology, satellite observations provide a vantage point into the evolving thermal dynamics of the Aegean Sea. High temporal and spatial data can reveal temperature patterns and hotspots across the waters. Such insights illuminate areas vulnerable to thermal stress, delivering crucial information for the safeguarding of marine ecosystems. In the example bellow it is possible to check the sea surface temperature along a part of the Greek coast that is bathed by the Aegean Sea.  

On July 24th satellite images show values around 28°C, perfectly exemplifying the event and testifying the situation.

A path towards the answer

In a global market of annual billion-dollar proportions, the impact observed along the Greek coast resonates significantly. Subsequently, the mussel industry not only supports local economies but also fuels global supply chains. Harnessing the power of satellite imagery offers a proactive solution to address potential issues before they materialize. By providing “real-time” insights into sea surface temperatures, our satellite serves as a driver for change. Detecting shifts in thermal patterns while occurring, our high temporal and spatial resolution data empower coastal communities and industries to take preventive measures. This foresight not only safeguards precious mussel populations but also preserves the economic vitality of coastal regions.

In conclusion, the shifting tides of our climate bring with them profound implications for our seas, ecosystems, and communities. The recent bout of scorching heatwaves that gripped certain European regions, surpassing 40 degrees Celsius, serves as a stern reminder of the escalating impact of climate change. As the global temperature continues to rise, these extreme conditions are projected to worsen, particularly in regions that are experiencing rapid warming trends, such as Europe.

Yet, it's not just marine life that faces the repercussions of elevated SST. Human well-being, economies, and health are also inextricably linked to the oceans. Harmful algal blooms, intensified by nutrient pollution and warmer waters, threaten both seafood industries and public health. Coastal communities, home to a substantial portion of the global population, confront amplified risks due to rising sea levels and increasingly ferocious storms, demanding adaptation, and resilience efforts.

As the tides of change continue to reshape our planet, it is imperative that we come together—industries, scientists, policymakers, communities, and individuals—to mitigate the challenges presented by elevated sea surface temperatures. Only through collective action can we safeguard our oceans, ecosystems, and the well-being of both present and future generations.

Interested in learning more about the impacts of changing sea temperatures and how it affects global ecosystems? Contact our sales team to explore the insights provided by our satellite observations. Reach out to Adam Borowicz.