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Increase in marine heat waves threatens coastal habitats

Heat waves—like the one that blistered the Pacific Northwest last June—are also occurring underwater.

A new study in “Frontiers in Marine Science” paints a troubling picture of recent and projected trends in marine heat waves within the nation’s largest estuary, with significant implications for the marine life and coastal economy of the Chesapeake Bay and other similarly impacted shallow-water ecosystems.

The study’s authors, Drs. Piero Mazzini and Cassia Pianca of the College of William and Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science, noted that they saw “significant upward trends in the frequency and yearly cumulative intensity of marine heat waves within the Chesapeake Bay.”

The pair based their analysis on long-term measurements of water temperature from six sites along the bay’s 200-mile length.

Like other researchers, they defined a marine heat wave as any period of five or more consecutive days with water temperatures warmer than 90 percent of those measured on the...

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