Climate change induced by humans was “almost certainly” responsible for a marine heatwave off Australia’s coast, a study published on Monday has found.
The study, compiled by the University of Tasmania (UTAS), said that an area of the Tasman Sea was affected by a heatwave for 251 consecutive days in the summer of 2015/16.
The area, roughly seven times the size of Tasmania, experienced a peak intensity of 2.9 degrees Celsius warmer than expected, causing widespread harm for marine life.
Researchers from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) found that a surge of warm water from the East Australian Current (EAC) was responsible for the heatwave.
“Scientists are inherently conservative about making grand claims, but we can say with 99 percent confidence that anthropogenic climate change made this marine heatwave several times more likely, and there’s an increasing probability of such extreme events in the future,” Eric Oliver, the lead researcher, said in a statement.
“The 2015/16 event was the longest and most intense marine heatwave on record off Tasmania.”
He said that Tasmanian industry was still reeling from the impact the heatwave had.
“Significant impacts were felt across marine ecosystems, including an outbreak of Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS), enhanced mortality of blacklip abalone, poor performance of salmon aquaculture, and intrusions by fish normally seen in warmer, more northerly waters,” Oliver said.
Researchers are optimistic that the study will inform governments on how to plan for and adapt to the environmental changes the world is undergoing.
“Studies such as this can play an important role in helping industries, governments and communities to plan for and adapt to the changes that we are experiencing, and their growing impacts on our environment and ecosystems,” co-author Neil Holbrook said.