Mediterranean Sea surface temperature could be rising at a rate of up to 2°C per century

The Balearic Islands Coastal Observing and Forecasting System (ICTS SOCIB) participates in a new study led by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO, in its Spanish acronym) showing that the rate at which the temperature and salinity of the Western Mediterranean Sea increases has accelerated since the mid 90s.

With the aim of knowing the impact that climate change is having on the waters around the Balearic Islands, researchers from the Mediterranean climate change group of the IEO, in collaboration with researchers from the ICTS SOCIB and the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC), have presented a study that analyses temperature and salinity data obtained during the last 24 years.

This study, published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Sciences, shows that the waters of the Western Mediterranean Sea have warmed and increased in salinity since the 1990s at all depths. In other words, these changes have affected both surface waters that originate in the Atlantic Ocean and flow into the Mediterranean, and deep waters and those located at intermediate depths.

According to the study, the temperature of the sea surface could be rising at a rate of up to 2°C per century and the water column (that is, the entire volume of water from the surface to the bottom of the sea) is absorbing heat at faster than previous work revealed. The sea level in the Western Mediterranean Sea is also rising - according to the results - at a similar speed to that of other parts of the planet (about 3 mm/year), which also represents an acceleration of this rise since the end of the 20th century.

“This study highlights the importance of the observation and surveillance systems of our seas for the correct detection of alterations that may occur in the marine environment, whether due to climate change or any other cause,” explains Manuel Vargas, researcher of the IEO's Oceanographic Center of Malaga and first author of the work.

  • Source

Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO)

  • Reference article

Vargas-Yáñez, M., Juza, M., Garcia-Martinez, M., Moya Ruiz, F., Balbín, R., Ballesteros, E., ... & Salat, J. (2021). Long-term changes in the water mass properties and sea level in the Balearic Channels over the period 1996-2019. Frontiers in Marine Science, 8, 237.