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Record high ocean temperatures recorded at two sites off Vancouver Island

Sites west of Vancouver Island see increase in daily average temperatures
Folger Passage and Barkley Canyon have recorded record-high daily average temperatures. (Courtesy Ocean Networks Canada)

Record high ocean temperatures have been recorded at two sites off Vancouver Island.

Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) recorded the highest daily average summertime temperatures at two of its seafloor observatory sites since continuous live monitoring started in 2009.

ONC, a University of Victoria initiative, operates NEPTUNE (the North-East Pacific Time-series Undersea Networked Experiments) that power instruments and thousands of sensors to provide real-time ocean condition data. The 800-kilometre cabled observatory is located off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

“Temperatures climbed steadily throughout July at ONC’s 95-metre water depth Folger Deep site within Folger Passage, eventually surpassing the highest daily average temperature recorded there for early August since ONC’s monitoring began 14 years ago,” said Kohen Bauer, ONC senior scientist, in a statement.

“Additionally, further offshore at the Barkley Upper Slope site (roughly 400-metre water depth) record seasonal temperatures have mostly persisted since June, largely exceeding the 14-year daily average temperature range at that location. This reveals that even deeper waters at the shelf’s edge are anomalously warm for this time of year.”

On Aug. 10, a new daily average temperature high of 8.57 C was reached at Folger Deep, compared to the previous 14-year record for that date of 8.44 C. A new record of 6.01 C was also reached on that day at Barkley Upper Slope, beating the old record for that date of 5.90 C.

Folger Passage is west of Bamfield while Barkley Canyon is southwest.

Stef Mellon, an ONC scientific data specialist, said the anomalous summer ocean temperature at Folger Deep prompted extra analyses and multiple instruments have confirmed the data.

Bauer noted there could be a number of factors causing the warmer waters at different locations, including excess heat from climate change, changes in wind patterns and variations in the upwelling of deeper waters.

“We live in a time of Earth system extremes, with record global air and ocean temperatures emerging as a major concern. Temperature plays a key role in many interconnected processes in the ocean, and although the mechanistic drivers of the warm summer temperatures we are seeing on the NEPTUNE observatory may not persist, it is worth investigating in more detail. Such observations highlight the importance of ocean monitoring networks in helping us understand these rapidly changing environments.”

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