As experts around the world were already expecting record heat from the combination of a El Nino and climate change, an experimental NOAA forecast is calling for upwards of half of all large bodies of water to experience heat wave conditions.
A marine heat wave is defined as when sea surface temperature anomalies rank in the warmest months compared to long-term averages.
Scientists say marine heat waves are already occurring in large parts of the North Atlantic, Pacific, Sea of Japan and the western Indian Ocean and will only continue to expand into September.
"In our 32-year record, we have never seen such widespread marine heatwave conditions," Dillon Amaya, a Physical Sciences Laboratory research scientist, stated.
"Normally, we might expect only about 10% of the world’s oceans to be ‘hot enough’ to be considered a marine heatwave, so it’s remarkable to reach 40% or 50%, even with long-term warming," Amaya said in a statement.
Warmer water temperatures can lead to enhanced tropical cyclones and impact weather patterns around the globe.
NOAA is paying close attention to marine ecosystems, which have suffered from massive fish die-offs and other food web disruptions during recent warm cycles.
The Pacific Northwest and coastal Alaska have seen large populations of fish and crabs disappearing, which could be connected to climate change.
Scientists say they are already seeing indications that a heat event similar to "The Blob" of 2013-16 could emerge again in 2024.
The extreme heat event devastated fisheries and marine populations in the northeast Pacific and caused severe economic losses,
The marine events are also tied to coral bleaching and toxic algal blooms, which are commonly spotted around the equatorial regions.
NOAA said the experimental heat wave forecasts are usually most accurate during El Niño cycles.
"Even though these forecasts are currently experimental, they have a lot of potential value to stakeholders," Michael Jacox, a member of the research team, stated. "By making predictions in real-time we can better test their performance, and also start to build trust with people who could potentially use this information."