Experts fear the record will be surpassed soon, as Mediterranean Sea waters are at their hottest in late August.
The Mediterranean Sea’s surface temperature hit 28.7C (83.7F) last week, the highest median recording since at least 1982, according to Spain’s Institute of Marine Sciences.
The Mediterranean Sea – one of the world’s most diverse habitats for marine life, home to more than 17,000 species – is warming 20% faster than the global average – adding pressure to already strained ecosystems. WWF studies even suggest that the Mediterranean is becoming the “fastest-warming and the saltiest sea on our planet.”
Melanie Juza, a researcher at the Balearic Islands Coastal Observing and Forecasting System (SOCIB), called the situation “crazy”.
“The Mediterranean Sea is responding very rapidly to climate change…for marine life, these sorts of readings are extreme — and could be deadly,” she said.
Meanwhile, average daily ocean surface temperatures also broke a 2016 record last week, reaching 20.96C (69.7F), according to climate modelling secretive Copernicus’s measurements. Oceans waters are usually at their hottest globally in March, a factor that makes scientists think the record will be broken several more times in the coming weeks. In places like Florida, ocean temperatures surpassed the 38C (100F) mark, adding to previous warnings over warming water putting marine life and ecosystems in peril.
“The fact that we’ve seen the record now makes me nervous about how much warmer the ocean may get between now and next March,” Copernicus’ Deputy Director Dr Samantha Burgess told the BBC.
There is little doubt among experts that the record temperatures are partly driven by El Niño, a weather phenomenon associated with the warming of sea surface temperatures in the central-east equatorial Pacific that made its comeback this year, bringing “off the chart” temperatures and unprecedented heatwaves.
Last month was the hottest July ever recorded, with global mean surface air temperature for the first 23 days standing at 16.95C