Marine heatwaves (MHWs) are prolonged extreme oceanic warm water events. They can have devastating impacts on marine ecosystems — for example, causing mass coral bleaching and substantial declines in kelp forests and seagrass meadows — with implications for the provision of ecological goods and services. Effective adaptation and mitigation efforts by marine managers can benefit from improved MHW predictions, which at present are inadequate. In this Perspective, we explore MHW predictability on short-term, interannual to decadal, and centennial timescales, focusing on the physical processes that offer prediction. While there may be potential predictability of MHWs days to years in advance, accuracy will vary dramatically depending on the regions and drivers. Skilful MHW prediction has the potential to provide critical information and guidance for marine conservation, fisheries and aquaculture management. However, to develop effective prediction systems, better understanding is needed of the physical drivers, subsurface MHWs, and predictability limits.
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N.J.H. acknowledges support from the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes (grant CE170100023) and the Australian Government National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Earth Systems and Climate Change (ESCC) Hub (Project 5.8). D.A.S. was supported by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowships scheme (MR/S032827/1). T.W. also acknowledges support from the ARC for marine heatwave work (DP170100023). J.A.B. was supported through the NESP Tropical Water Quality (TWQ) Hub (Project 4.2). Sea-surface-temperature retrievals in Fig. 4 were produced by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology as a contribution to the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), an initiative of the Australian Government being conducted as part of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) and the Super Science Initiative. The imagery data were acquired from the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and from the NOAA spacecraft by the Bureau of Meteorology, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Geoscience Australia and Western Australian Satellite Technology and Applications Consortium. Australia’s IMOS is enabled by the NCRIS. It is operated by a consortium of institutions as an unincorporated joint venture, with the University of Tasmania as Lead Agent.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Holbrook, N.J., Sen Gupta, A., Oliver, E.C.J. et al. Keeping pace with marine heatwaves. Nat Rev Earth Environ 1, 482–493 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-020-0068-4
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