Sea surface temperature (CLIM 013) - Assessment published Mar 2014
Climate change (Primary topic)
Coasts and seas
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- CLIM 013
Key policy question: What is the trend in surface water temperature across European seas?
- Sea surface temperature in European seas has been increasing in the past century at a faster rate than the global ocean.
- The rate of increase in sea surface temperature in all European seas during the past 25 years is the largest ever measured in any 25-year period. It has been several times faster than the average rate of increase during the past century, and it is also much faster than the global ocean.
- Globally averaged sea surface temperature is projected to continue to increase although more slowly than atmospheric temperature.
Mean annual sea surface temperature trend in European seas
Note: Spatial distribution of sea surface temperature trend over the past 25 years (1987-2011) for the European seas as calculated from the HADISST1 dataset. The units are °C/yr. Source: HADSST1 dataset (http://hadobs.metoffice.com/hadisst/data/download.html), masked where ice coverage constituted more than 20% of the sea water.
- HadISST1 - Global sea ice and Sea Surface Temperature analyses provided by Met Office Hadley Centre observations datasets
Sea surface temperature (SST) has been increasing globally and in Europeans seas over the last 100 years at a faster rate than the global ocean. The rate of increase in European seas has been particularly rapid over the last 25 years (Figure 1) [i]. The rate of warming varies across European seas; the fastest warming has been observed in the Black Sea (Figure 2). The observed patterns of change in the subsurface ocean are consistent with changes in the surface ocean in response to climate change and natural variability and with known physical and biogeochemical processes in the ocean [ii].
It is very likely that globally-averaged surface and vertically-averaged ocean temperatures will further increase in the near-term and beyond. Due to the thermal inertia of the ocean, global SST is projected to rise more slowly than atmospheric temperature [iii].
It is not generally possible to project changes in SST for individual regional seas across Europe due to the insufficient spatial resolution of the applied coupled ocean-climate models. However, detailed projections are available for some regions. For the Baltic Sea, the increase in summer SST during the 21st century under medium to high emissions scenarios is projected to be about 2 °C in the southern parts and about 4 °C in the northern parts [iv].
[i] S. Levitus et al., ‘Global Ocean Heat Content 1955–2008 in Light of Recently Revealed Instrumentation Problems’,Geophysical Research Letters 36, no. 7 (11 April 2009), doi:10.1029/2008GL037155; M. Rhein et al., ‘Observations: Ocean’, inClimate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ed. T. F. Stocker et al. (Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, 2013), Chapter 3, http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_Chapter03_FINAL.pdf; HELCOM,Climate Change in the Baltic Sea Area - HELCOM Thematic Assessment in 2013, Baltic Sea Environment Proceedings (Helsinki: HELCOM, 2013), http://helcom.fi/Lists/Publications/BSEP137.pdf.
[ii] Rhein et al., ‘Observations: Ocean’.
[iii] Gerald A. Meehl et al., ‘Climate Change Projections for the Twenty-First Century and Climate Change Commitment in the CCSM3’,Journal of Climate 19, no. 11 (June 2006): 2597–2616, doi:10.1175/JCLI3746.1; B. Kirtman et al., ‘Near-Term Climate Change: Projections and Predictability’, inClimate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ed. T. F. Stocker et al. (Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, 2013), Chapter 11, http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_Chapter11_FINAL.pdf.
[iv] HELCOM,Climate Change in the Baltic Sea Area - HELCOM Thematic Assessment in 2013.
Global Ocean OSTIA Sea Surface Temperature and Sea Ice Reanalysis
provided by Ocean Monitoring and Forecasting (MyOcean)
Sea surface temperature - Mediterranean Sea
provided by Mediterranean Observational Oceanography Network (MOON)
Sea surface temperature - Baltic and North Seas
provided by Baltic Operational Oceanographic System (BOOS)
HadISST1 - Global sea ice and Sea Surface Temperature analyses
provided by Met Office Hadley Centre observations datasets
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoTrine Christiansen
EEA Management Plan2014 1.4.1 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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