Rising temperatures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

New data shows water temperatures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence have reached record highs, with experts warning the rise could impact some species that live in the waters.

According to new research released Tuesday by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, warming ocean temperatures — especially those in deep waters — have set more records in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2021 than in the past 40 years.

The results include that water temperatures at depths of 200, 250 and 300 meters have reached highs of 5.7 C, 6.6 C and 6.8 C, respectively, over the past year.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist Peter Galbraith analyzed temperature changes in different layers of water. He told CTV National News that temperatures in the “cold middle layer” of water are the warmest scientists have seen since they began collecting such data.

Galbraith says the temperature change happened quite suddenly, posing a risk to species in the gulf that may not be able to adapt quickly.

Galbraith explained that warming waters are affecting the habitat of snow crabs and shrimp, among other unique sea creatures and animals that depend on the Gulf’s ecosystem.

“If you had asked me 15 years ago ‘Could the Gulf of St. Lawrence get this hot?’ I would have said ‘No, impossible’,” Galbraith said.

Now he warns that the water temperature in the gulf is reaching breaking point.

“We’re close to that ‘hot as it gets’ limit,” Galbraith said.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s findings are part of a global trend of climate change.

The world’s oceans were the warmest on record in 2021 for the sixth consecutive year, which scientists say is largely due to fossil fuel emissions.

Richard Betts, head of climate impact research at the University of Exeter in the UK, says the sudden rise in temperatures is surprising.

“The last seven years in particular are very noticeably warmer than anything seen before,” Betts said.

However, scientists say they are still studying the changes and potential impacts that may follow rising water temperatures.

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