JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – You may have seen the headlines earlier this week of water temperatures in the Florida Keys hitting triple digits.
If verified, this would be the warmest water temperature ever recorded on Earth.
But did it really happen? And how would we know? The answers are a bit complicated.
The triple-digit measurement
The water temperature measurement occurred in Manatee Bay, located just north of Florida Keys.
The temperature recorded was an astonishing 101.1°.
No sensor has ever recorded a temperature of 101° anywhere in the world’s oceans.
But there is some pause on this preliminary number.
Location, location, location
Measurement of water temperatures is notoriously difficult to find quality data.
Some sensors measure just the very top of the water, other sensors go several feet into the water.
At Manatee Bay, the sensor is located 5 feet below the water line, but the water is very shallow in this part of the Keys.
The sensor is also located in an area where little water circulation is likely. Manatee Bay is located north of the Keys, and is cutoff to some degree from the rest of the Florida Straits by land from mangroves and the Overseas Highway causeways.
This area also is famous for significant organic matter, like algae and seagrasses. This can artificially inflate water temperatures as darker matter will absorb more heat.
It is the warmest ever recorded there?
Another major point of concern on this record by scientists is it may not be the warmest temp ever recorded at this sensor.
Scientists over the past couple of days have found that the sensor recorded a 102° temperature in August of 2017.
The sensor may have also gotten close to 100° in 2009 as well.
This brings doubt that the water temperature recorded earlier in the week will verify as a new world record.
. . .But it was still hot
Even if the 101.1° water temp isn’t verified, it was exceptionally hot in the Florida Keys, and it remains that way.
Water temperatures at other buoys, and remote sensing using satellites, have recorded water temps in the mid to even upper 90s around the Florida Keys.
This has resulted in brutal heat for the land areas.
Marathon, Fla., on Monday, soared to 99°, tying its all-time record.
The city has seen record highs for 10 consecutive days.
Air temps across much of the Keys have been above-average, courtesy of the extremely warm waters.
And the hot water temps will likely hang around for a while.
Water temps in the Keys often don’t begin to cool until the early Fall months.
While the 101° water temp recording may not make it to the record books, it is still extremely warm in the waters around the Florida Keys, and it will likely stay that way for the rest of the summer.