Record Sea Surface Temperature for Antigua During January

27 02 2015

Dale C. S. Destin |

Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) around Antigua and Barbuda were at record tying levels during January.  The SSTs rose to 27.1°C, tying the record highest for January reached in 2010 and 1970. Interestingly, this occurred while much of the tropical North Atlantic had near normal SSTs.


What does this mean?

It is not clear what this mean at this time. However, recent reports have linked the movement of fish poleward to cooler waters to climate change. That means movement of fish away the tropics, such as our area.

According to NOAA Fisheries scientist John Hare, it is hypothesized “that they’re heading north because they’re trying to stay within their preferred temperature range as the ocean warms up around them.” Thus, record warm SSTs cannot be good for fisheries and by extension our diet and economy.

Warm SSTs could also have negative implications for coral reefs. One of the stressors that lead to coral bleaching is high SSTs. Increased ocean temperatures are deemed the main cause of coral bleaching. As explained by NOAA’s scientists, “The bleaching takes place when corals are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light or nutrients. They expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn white or pale. Without the algae, the coral loses its major source of food and is more susceptible to disease.”

Of some comfort though, the outlook for the period February-May 2015, issued by NOAA Reef Watch, shows coral bleaching to be unlikely for our area. However, most of the rest of the tropics and Southern Hemisphere subtropics are under watches and warnings.


The two previous years of record high SSTs to start the year were associated with near record high rainfall years. In 2010 and 1970, the average rainfall totals for Antigua were 65.29 and 65.11 inches respectively. Only five other years have had higher rainfall dating back to 1928. However, this obviously is much too small a sample size to even start to think about this having any implications or portents for the rest of the year with respect to rainfall.

Looking forward…

We now turn our attention to the month of February to see if there is a continuation of the warm SSTs. Also we look forward to see if the warmth spreads to the tropical North Atlantic (TNA). Warm SSTs across the TNA is a good omen for rainfall across our area and vice versa.


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