Study: Climate change threatens Hawaiian waters that serve as home to humpback whales

(Barbara LaCorte/NOAA (custom credit))
Published: Jul. 4, 2022 at 12:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The warm, coastal waters of Hawaii have long served as breeding grounds for humpback whales, but that may all change due to human-caused climate change and increased greenhouse gases, a new study said.

Humpback whales annually birth their calves in local waters that range in sea surface temperature from around 70 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, according to University of Hawaii at Manoa graduate students and Pacific Whale Foundation researchers.

At the current pace of ocean warming, researchers found the breeding grounds will heat up past the critical 82 degrees Fahrenheit mark by the next century.

”We expected to see critical warming in some of the breeding grounds, but the number of critically affected areas was a surprise,” said UH graduate student researcher Hannah von Hammerstein.

These are the listed possible outcomes:

  • 67% of humpback whale breeding grounds will exceed the sea surface level by 2100 if carbon emissions and other factors remain unchecked.
  • However, only 35% of grounds will be affected if global institutions work towards curtailing emissions in a “middle-of-the-road” scenario.

“It’s really crucial that we try to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and really try to stay on that ‘middle-of-the-road’ greenhouse gas emissions scenario at the very least,” said Renee Setter, UH graduate student researcher.

The study notes there is uncertainty on how these changes will affect the humpback whale population and how the species will respond to the warming habitats.

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