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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Sea surface temperature / Sea surface temperature (CLIM 013) - Assessment published Mar 2014

Sea surface temperature (CLIM 013) - Assessment published Mar 2014

Generic metadata

Topics:

Climate change Climate change (Primary topic)

Coasts and seas Coasts and seas

Tags:
water | water temperature | sea surface
DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CLIM 013
Dynamic
Temporal coverage:
1870-2012
Geographic coverage:
Baltic Sea North Atlantic Ocean North Sea Atlantic Austria Belgium Black Sea Bulgaria Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Ireland Italy Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Marine Mediterranean sea Netherlands Poland Portugal Romania Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden United Kingdom
 
Contents
 

Key policy question: What is the trend in surface water temperature across European seas?

Key messages

  • 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. 

Annual average sea surface temperature anomaly

Chart
Data sources: Explore chart interactively
Table
Data sources: Explore chart interactively

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.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Key assessment

Past trends

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].

Projections

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.

Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Trine Christiansen

Ownership

EEA Management Plan

2014 1.4.1 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 4 years in October-December (Q4)

Comments

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100