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Underwater extremes

With much of the Earth covered by oceans, a different kind of heatwave is attracting attention, writes Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick in Inside Story (27.4.16).

‘Most people have heard of, and almost certainly experienced, a heatwave at some point in their lives. For a few days to more than a month, conditions are extreme relative to the location and time of year; mortality rates increase, as do bushfires, crop failures and infrastructure damage, with disastrous impacts on ecosystems. All in all, they’re pretty nasty, and a lot of research has gone into understanding what drives them and how they can be predicted more accurately.

‘For the most part, heatwaves are associated with extreme atmospheric temperatures. But heatwaves occur in the ocean, too.

‘… It’s important to remember that climate change affects more than just the land and atmosphere. Oceans make up 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface, and extreme events are increasing. Let’s hope we curb our emissions before priceless treasures like the Great Barrier Reef are gone forever.’

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