Sea temperatures around Australia are posting "amazing" records that climate specialists say signal global records set in 2014 may be broken this year and next.
March sea-surface temperatures in the Coral Sea region off Queensland broke the previous high by 0.12 degrees – a big jump for oceans that are typically more thermally stable than land. Temperatures for the entire Australian ocean region also set new highs for the month, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
The unusual warmth off Australia comes as the Pacific Ocean remains primed for an El Nino event, as the bureau reported last month.
If such an event occurs, the underlying warming from climate change will get a further boost from natural variability, making 2014's ranking as the hottest year on records going back to the 1880s likely to be short-lived, according to Andy Pitman, head of climate research at the University of NSW.
"If we do get an intense El Nino, it will blitz the records," Professor Pitman said. "The climate is on a performance-enhancing drug and that drug is carbon dioxide."