AN ‘UNPRECEDENTED’ marine heatwave is hitting the UK, causing water temperatures along Devon’s coast to soar. 

While the marine heatwave is most pronounced in the north-east of England, waters around Teignbridge are several degrees warmer than what is usual in June. 

According to Sea Temperature Info, Sea Temperature Info, Teignmouth reached 17.8 degrees Celsius on Monday, compared to 14.3 degrees, the average for June in the area between 2019-2022.

Dawlish and Dawlish Warren are similarly 17.7 degrees. 

Sea surface temperatures compared with 1981-2016 average, June 16, 2023 (BBC, Met Office, European Space Agency)

The Met Office predicts temperatures to remain high because of the emerging El Niño weather phenomenon, a natural fluctuation in sea temperatures that occurs every few years. 

Daniela Schmidt, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Bristol, said: ‘The extreme and unprecedented temperatures show the power of the combination of human-induced warming and natural climate variability like El Niño.

‘While marine heatwaves are found in warmer seas like the Mediterranean, such anomalous temperatures in this part of the North Atlantic are unheard of. They have been linked to less dust from the Sahara but also the North Atlantic climate variability, which will need further understanding to unravel.'

The water temperatures surrounding Devon have not gone unnoticed. Peta Howell, one of the leaders of a cold water swimming hub called Healthscape CIC in Teignmouth and Paignton, has noticed the sudden rise in water warmth.

Peta said: 'It’s been very warm, when I was swimming on Friday, it was like getting into a warm bath, I was really shocked. It certainly does feel warmer, markedly warmer.'

Peta runs cold water swimming hubs in Teignbridge and Torbay (Peta Howell)

There are also concerns that the increased sea temperatures will impact marine wildlife and those whose livelihoods depend on it. 

Dr Schmidt added: ‘Heat, like on land, stresses marine organisms. In other parts of the world, we have seen several mass mortalities of marine plants and animals caused by ocean heatwaves which have caused hundreds of millions of pounds of losses, in fisheries income, carbon storage, cultural values and habitat loss.’

This summer's spike in temperatures is part of a broader trend of higher sea temperatures around Devon. Last month, the Mid-Devon Advertiser caught up with Rob Hughes from Devon Sea Safari, who has noticed the warmer sea whilst out on his rib, spotting wildlife.

Rob said: '‘There’s been a definite slight warming of our seas round here. It’s probably got about a degree warmer in the last ten years. 

Rob Hughes
Rob has noticed increased marine activity around Devon's coastline (Rob Hughes)

‘We’re seeing a lot of warmer water species such as bluefin tuna and thresher sharks, they’re quite happy in our waters now. 20 years ago it would have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see a shark leap out of the water in England but now you get about four or five sightings a year.'