By Rosie McCall, Newsweek
warm “blob” of hot water reported to have formed in the Pacific Ocean near New Zealand is making its way towards South America.
An image from Climate Reanalyzer (a website produced by the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine) made headlines this week after its weather maps showed a patch of unusually warm water in the South Pacific on Monday.
According to a report in The Guardian, the patch is around one million square kilometres and approximately 1.5 times the size of Texas.
The conditions were brought on by a combination sunny skies, high pressures and gentle winds, James Renwick, a professor in physical geography and a weather and climate researcher at the Victoria University of Wellington, told the New Zealand Herald.
“Sea temperatures don’t actually vary too much and a degree [Celsius], plus or minus, is quite a big deal and this area is probably four degrees or more than that above average and that’s pretty huge,” said Renwick.
The center could be more than 6 degrees Celsius hotter than average—making it “one of the warmest spots on the planet at the moment.”
At the time of writing, Climate Reanalyzer shows the warm patch in the Pacific part way between New Zealand and southern Chile.
New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere and, therefore, in the midst of summer, but marine heatwaves like these can just as easily occur in winter.
A marine heatwave is defined according to differences in expected temperatures—which will vary depending on geography and the time of year.
Climatologist Nick Bond from the University of Washington told NOAA Research they are in almost all cases unusual weather patterns “that either cause more heat than usual to go into the ocean, warming up the surface, or in some cases suppress the amount of heat coming out of the ocean.”