Whales may avoid Hawaii as water temperatures are warm | News, Sports, Jobs

Whales may avoid Hawaiian waters due to rising temperatures. Photo Credit: HIHWNMS NMFS ESA Approval

Humpback whales may one day avoid making the trip to Hawaii’s waters due to climate change and rising greenhouse gases, according to new findings published in Frontiers in Marine Science.

Three graduate students from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hannah von Hammerstein and Renee Setter from the College of Social Sciences’ Department of Geography and Environment, and Martin van Aswegen from the Institute for Marine Biology’s Marine Mammal Research Program said that these are likely some of the breeding sites of whales will warm above the comfortable temperature range over the next century.

“We expected critical warming in some of the breeding areas, but the number of critically affected areas was a surprise,” said von Hammerstein in a press release. “While the results of the study are discouraging, they also highlight the differences between the two emission scenarios and show what can still be gained by implementing emission reduction measures.”

In the paper entitled “High-resolution projections of global sea surface temperatures reveal critical warming in humpback whale breeding grounds,” Research indicates that anthropogenic climate change is warming the oceans at an unprecedented rate.

According to von Hammerstein, Setter, van Aswegen and co-researchers at the Pacific Whale Foundation, humpback whales are known to migrate to tropical coastal waters like Hawaii, where they give birth to their calves.

These areas are in regions with sea surface temperatures between 7 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, and the whales typically return to the same locations annually.

Using a statistic “Delta Down Scaling” Method to increase the resolution of global sea surface temperatures and track the critical temperature range that limits breeding ranges of humpback whales in the 21st century, the research proposed two possible climate change scenarios.

By the year 2100, in the worst-case scenario with continued high development and unchecked CO2 emissions, 67 percent of the breeding areas of humpback whales will exceed the critical sea surface temperature of 82 degrees.

The second scenario shows that this number would drop to 35 percent of the hotbeds as global and international institutions work towards emission reduction targets.

“It’s really critical that we try to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and really try to stick with it.”middle of the street“At least one greenhouse gas emissions scenario so that we can prevent as many of these hotbeds as possible from exceeding this critical temperature threshold,” Added setter.

The researchers noted that while it is not currently known whether humpback whales will continue to migrate to breeding grounds above 82 degrees, they hope their findings could provide an incentive for policymakers to work towards reducing emissions, not just in Hawaii, but also internationally.

“Our results provide another example of what is to come with anthropogenic climate change, with humpback whales being just one species affected.” said van Aswegen. “Improving our understanding of how ecosystems will change is critical to the effective and timely implementation of mitigation actions.”

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at [email protected]

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