The last month of summer is upon us, and by now you probably think you’ve survived all the horrors one season could possibly concoct. You’ve inhaled mouthfuls of bugs; you’ve waded through thick, orange smoke. But! Have you tried a steaming-hot soak in your local ocean? This was an option for some Florida residents last week when certain spots off the state’s coasts briefly reached the same temperature as your standard hot tub.
Last Sunday, for example, a buoy in Manatee Bay registered 100.2 degrees celsius, climbing up to 101.1 the following day. Two nearby locations in Murray Key and Johnson Key showed similar readings. If verified, this would be the first time ocean temperatures have hit the triple digits, as far as scientists know. One meteorologist at Yale offered a personal anecdote to help the lay reader understand just how freakish these new highs are: 100 to 101 is the temperature at which he keeps his hot tub. Put another way, it is the perfect temp for when you want to sit in some water and sweat.
Although Florida’s bathhouse pivot marks an especially alarming moment in the history of warming oceans, rising water temperatures have been wreaking all sorts of chaos for years: Fish supplies are dwindling, causing a ripple effect across the entire food chain; coral reefs housing millions of algae are weakening and dying; and higher surface temperatures mean more destructive hurricanes. Unnaturally warm sea water in Texas recently contributed to the sudden appearance of tens of thousands of dead menhaden on the beach, a biblical fresco of catastrophe.
Mercifully, Florida’s oceans have cooled down to the high 80s, which is still hotter than what’s recommended for a heated swimming pool. But it is only the end of July, and you never know what fresh circle of hell our global thermostat will match before fall. If you missed the chance to wade through the foul-smelling blob of rotting seaweed that arrived on Florida beaches earlier this year, who knows? At least you may still be able to stew like a sexy pot of beans in nature’s Jacuzzi.