Surface temperatures in the Mediterranean basin are currently warmer than usual, reaching levels up to 5-6 degrees above the climatological average for July. A marine heatwave (MHW) was observed in July 2023 and is now expanding eastward across the Mediterranean Sea. The phenomenon has affected the Gulf of Taranto and is expected to intensify in the coming weeks.

These are the analyses and predictions of the Euro-Mediterranean Center for Climate Change (EMCC) provided to the Copernicus Marine Service. Mhw occur when ocean temperatures exceed an extreme threshold at seasonal variability for more than five days in a row. As of July 11, 2023, one Mhw hit the Gulf of Taranto, where surface water temperatures peaked at 30 degrees, 2 above the threshold temperature.

“Our simulations show that we are currently in a condition where the average sea surface temperature in the Mediterranean Sea is about 28 degrees and is expected to continue to rise in the coming days, reaching above 30 C,” says Rita Lecci of Cmcc’s Ocean Predictions and Applications (Opa) division. “Since the beginning of July, we have observed a positive trend in the increase of sea surface temperature, which is normal for summer conditions. In mid-July, this temperature increase turned out to be an anomaly because the sea surface temperature exceeded the climatological threshold for the month, calculated over the past 30 years, for more than five consecutive days.”

Last year, a marine heat wave of record proportions in the Mediterranean Sea had affected the Ligurian Sea for three weeks, later hitting the Gulf of Taranto with greater intensity, reaching nearly 5 C above average.

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