Indicator Assessment

Sea surface temperature

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-100-en
  Also known as: CSI 046 , CLIM 013
Published 08 Sep 2008 Last modified 11 May 2021
10 min read
This is an old version, kept for reference only.

Go to latest version
This page was archived on 25 Aug 2017 with reason: A new version has been published
  • Sea surface temperature (SST) in European seas is increasing more rapidly than in the global oceans. The rate of increase is higher in the northern European seas and lower in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • The rate of increase in sea surface temperature in all European seas during the past 25 years has been about 10 times faster than the average rate of increase during more than the past century.
  • The rate of increase observed in the past 25 years is the largest ever measured in any previous 25 year period.

Sea surface temperature anomaly for period 1870-2006

Note: Data (oC) show the difference between annual average temperatures and the period 1982-2006 mean in different European seas

Data source:

Coppini, G.; Pinardi, N.; Marullo, S. and Loewe, P., 2007. Compiled for EEA by the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) based on datasets made available by the Hadley Center. HADISST1: http:// ENEA within Mediterranean Operational Oceanography Network (MOON), and Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie (BSH) within the Baltic Operational Oceanography System (BOOS).

Sea surface temperature changes for the European seas 1982-2006

Note: .

Data source:

Coppini, G. and Pinardi, N., 2007. Compiled for EEA by the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) based on datasets made available by the Hadley Center HADISST1: download.html.

Past trends

The SST changes in the European regional seas are stronger than in the global oceans (Table 1). The strongest trend in the last 25 years is in the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, while the rates are lower in the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea. The regional seas experienced warming rates that are up to six times larger than those in the global oceans in the past 25 years. These changes have not been observed in any other 25-year period since systematic observations started more than a century ago (Figure 1).
The spatial distribution of trend over the European seas is shown in Figure 2. It shows that the positive temperature trend is more pronounced in the North Sea, Baltic Sea, the area south of the Denmark Strait, the eastern part of the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea. Absolute maxima are located in the North Atlantic around 50oN, in the North Sea and Baltic Sea, with values over 0.06-0.07 oC/year. Negative trends are detected in the Greenland Sea. Here, the estimates also depend on the extent of the ice.


IPCC (2007a) reports global-scale SST patterns for the SRES-A1B scenario for 2011-2030, 2046-2065, and 2080-2099. In these scenarios, ocean warming evolves more slowly than the warming of the atmosphere. Initially ocean warming will be greatest in the upper 100 m of the ocean (in the surface mixed layer), but later in the 21st-century temperatures will also increase in the deep ocean (IPCC, 2007a; Watterson, 2003; Stouffer, 2004).
The scenario projects ocean warming to be relatively large in the Arctic and along the equator in the eastern Pacific, with less warming over the North Atlantic and in the Southern Ocean (e.g. Xu et al., 2005). Enhanced oceanic warming along the equator is also evident, and can be associated with oceanic heat flux changes (Watterson, 2003) and temperature changes in the atmosphere (Liu et al., 2005). It is not possible to project changes in SST for the different geographic regions across Europe because the spatial resolution of the coupled ocean-climate models is not high enough to evaluate trends on the scale of individual European regional seas.

 Table 1  Summary of sea surface temperature changes in the global ocean and the four

European regional seas


1871-2006 annual rate

(past 136 years)


1982-2006 annual rate

(past 25 years)


Global Ocean



North Atlantic Ocean



Baltic Sea



North Sea



Mediterranean Sea



Black Sea



Source: SST datasets from the Hadley Centre (HADISST1 (global)), MOON (Mediterranean Sea), and Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie (Baltic and North Seas).


Supporting information

Indicator definition

  • Sea surface temperature anomaly for period 1870-2006
  • Sea surface temperature changes for the European seas 1982-2006



Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The aim is to increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the management of water resources and ecosystems. More knowledge is needed on climate impact and vulnerability but a considerable amount of information and research already exists which can be shared better through a proposed Clearing House Mechanism. The White Paper stresses the need to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. A number of Member States have already taken action and several have prepared national adaptation plans. The EU is also developing actions to enhance and finance adaptation in developing countries as part of a new post-2012 global climate agreement expected in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009). For more information see:


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified



Methodology for indicator calculation

Methodology for gap filling

Methodology references

No methodology references available.



Methodology uncertainty

Data sets uncertainty

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 046
  • CLIM 013
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage




Filed under: climate change, sea, sea surface
Document Actions