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San Diego’s ocean waters are warmer than usual. Last week, researchers recorded the warmest sea surface temperature in more than a century. Each day, researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego collect data by hand from the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier. On Friday, the water reached 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit — the highest since record keeping began there in 1916. The previous record, 78.6 degrees, had been set just two days earlier. We spoke with Clarissa Anderson, a biological oceanographer, to explain the significance of the temperatures.
Her answers have been slightly edited and condensed for clarity:
How often is the water temperature measured and why?
We’ve done manual measurements on the waters near the pier since 1916, but we also have an automatic shore station and gliders that go further off the coast and buoys. All of those measurements tell us a comprehensive story about what’s going on in the ocean as a whole. And we’re seeing these high temperatures across the board.
While global warming was not an understood concept a century ago, even then there was an understanding that there’s natural variability and that temperatures could change very abruptly. The understanding was you’ve got to get a baseline understanding. There was a basic understanding that human causes could impact the sea and this was scientific curiosity taking that further.
What does ocean temperature tell you?
Temperature is an incredibly important driver. Not only is it a fundamental property but we know it has a lot of impact on things that are always living in this dynamic system. We’re really pushing against the edges of that variability. We had the blob and then we had El Niño of 2016 and we never really came back down from that. This can signal a tipping point of the environment that we need to be prepared for and we need to be looking at right now.
Is this a sign of global warming?
The oceans have been taking so much of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and absorbing that — we would probably be a lot hotter on land if we didn’t have this incredible response from the ocean. We have already seen that the temperatures are changing things. We’ve had algae blooms and a Dungeness crab industry that was really harmed. It is alarming.
(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)
• The Mendocino Complex Fire is now the largest wildlife fire in modern state history. [The New York Times]
• President Trump blamed the blazes on California’s environmental policies and inaccurately claimed that water that could be used to fight the fires was “foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean.” [The New York Times]
• The president’s tweet prompted widespread confusion, frustration and even outrage. A columnist for The Los Angeles Times called it “strikingly ignorant,” and a fire chief directly contradicted the president. [The Los Angeles Times | The San Francisco Chronicle]
• This map shows where California’s largest 10 fires have occurred since state officials began tracking in 1932. [The Mercury News]
• 249 — that’s how many nights one firefighter spent away from his wife battling wildfires last year. How families are coping with the new normal. [The Sacramento Bee]
• “The paper is mine now, so the editorial voice will be mine,” the new owner of The Santa Clarita Valley Signal recently said, prompting a new round of worry in the area. [The New York Times]
• A Sikh man was putting up signs for local Republicans when two men threw sand in his eyes, beat him and spray-painted a neo-Nazi symbol on his truck. The police are now looking for suspects, calling it a hate crime. [The New York Times]
• A shortage of charging stations for electric cars “threatens to become a critical bottleneck to mass adoption,” according to one recent study. [The Fresno Bee]
• San Francisco has the oldest first-time mothers in the country. See how your own county compares in these interactive maps and charts. [The New York Times]
• One California company claims it has made a major breakthrough and created something that many thought was impossible: a marijuana breathalyzer. [National Public Radio]
• President Trump may be in danger of losing his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously to ask the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to remove his star. [Vulture]
And Finally …
Should San Francisco force workers outside their offices for meals? We asked you to weigh in last week about the news that two members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors proposed an ordinance to ban new corporate offices from including cafeterias.
Dozens of emails poured in and the response was a resounding no. Many criticized what they saw as a “nanny-state” law. Here are excerpts from some responses:
“If you had to pay $18 for an avocado salad at the corner restaurant or a free lunch at work as part of your compensation, which would you choose? San Francisco restaurants are ridiculously expensive as has become the norm in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland and Seattle too. Consumers need to say no to restaurant’s high prices. The San Francisco supervisors need to concentrate on rent control and homelessness.”
“I have worked for 35 years and can count on one hand the times I didn’t bring lunch from home. Will that be the next rule, no home lunch? As for those businesses that popped up expecting a lunch crowd, perhaps they need to think out of the box and provide affordable food to those who need it during the day, and happy hour to those who work next door.”
“Vendors have no legal right to force people into their shops and restaurants. This is a slippery slope. What’s next — school lunches?”
But at least one reader supported the cafeteria ban:
“I have lived and worked in San Francisco for 50 years, and it is disheartening to see small local businesses including restaurants being driven out by techs who make very generous salaries then cry that it is so expensive to live in San Francisco that they need free food! Give me a break! Go spend the money you’ve earned in San Francisco in local businesses, such as restaurants, grocery stores, book stores, dry cleaners etc.”
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California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.