Being boiled alive in the 101-degree ocean (according to NYT)

At least five of the folks with whom I chatted in the San Francisco Bay Area recently noted that the ocean water near Florida had been heated up to more than 100 degrees. When I asked them what part of the Florida shoreline was plagued with this scalding water, they couldn’t answer precisely. Their conjectures ranged from a few miles out to sea from Miami to maybe right near a popular beach.

For all of these loyal Followers of Science, one of whom has a Ph.D. in physics, the source was “101°F in the Ocean Off Florida: Was It a World Record?” (New York Times, July 26, 2023):

The reading from a buoy off Florida this week was stunning: 101.1 degrees Fahrenheit, or just over 38 Celsius, a possible world record for sea surface temperatures and a stark indication of the brutal marine heat wave that’s threatening the region’s sea life.

So it’s “off Florida” and therefore out into the open sea, right? If we had any doubt about this, the Scientists at the NYT include a photo of the open ocean underneath the headline:

Based on the headline and the photo, then, a Marvel-style villain heated up part of the open ocean to over 101 degrees and, with a little more climate change, it is easy to imagine this hitting 213 degrees F, the boiling point for sea water. (In other words, New Yorkers with money should not follow their former neighbors and move to Florida because the risk of being boiled alive at the beach is real.)

The best-known beach in Florida is Miami Beach. Is it 101.1 degrees in the water there? says that, around the time that the NYT raised the alarm, it was a degree or two hotter than the average for previous years:

Maybe “off Florida” meant into the Gulf of Mexico? The water temp on the west coast of Florida was also about average.

Let’s dig for clues in the NYT article:

Allyson Gantt of the National Park Service, which monitors and maintains the buoy, said there was no reason to doubt the measurement. The data was consistent with high water temperatures seen in the area, Florida Bay, between the southern end of the Florida mainland and the Florida Keys, in recent weeks, she said.

Just like it’s easier to heat up a shallow bath than a deep one, the depth of the water is going to affect temperatures, said Jeff Masters, a former hurricane scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a co-founder of Weather Underground, a Web-based weather service.

So… it turns out the buoy was not “off Florida”, but rather inside Florida (between the Keys and the mainland). The NYT tells us that shallow water will heat up more than the deep ocean, just as your backyard swimming pool heats up more, but the newspaper of Science doesn’t tell us the water depth.

What’s unusual about the water between the Keys and the mainland? That’s where beginner kiteboarders and windsurfers are taken to learn because (a) the wind is steady, and (b) the water is so shallow that students can stand up after falling off the board. How shallow? The charts show between 0′ and 6′ at low tide:

So the NYT reader was informed that the “ocean off Florida” had reached 101.1 degrees when, in fact, it was a protected area possibly just a few feet deep. (The open ocean off Florida’s Atlantic coast quickly reaches depths of 1,000′ and more.) Is Florida Bay even part of the ocean? Wikipedia says that “It is a large, shallow estuary that while connected to the Gulf of Mexico, has limited exchange of water due to various shallow mudbanks covered with seagrass.” (What’s an estuary? Wikipedia says “An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea.”)

A Bay Area Deplorable (deeply closeted so that he can keep his job!), when I shared these conversations with him, said “when you’re looking at the New York Times, what you don’t see is more important than what you do see.” (i.e., the unseen depth of the water and the unseen previous buoy high temp in the same area are more important than the seen recent high temperature)

When I got home on August 3, 2023, I discovered that the lifeguards on the Atlantic coast hadn’t been reading the New York Times. They marked the Juno Beach water temperature as 85 degrees:

In case the NYT article gets memory-holed, some screen shots:

Note that the article also mentions “Manatee Bay” as a place where the “ocean” is super hot. Here’s the open ocean in Manatee Bay, from Google Maps:

How deep is Manatee Bay? 4-5 feet, except where mud or coral makes it shallower.

Why does it matter? If you’re ordering a 150-meter boat from Meyer Werft, make sure to tell them it can’t draw more than 4′ (or 1′ for Florida Bay?) because you want to sail it in what the New York Times calls “the ocean”.

27 thoughts on “Being boiled alive in the 101-degree ocean (according to NYT)

  1. Regarding the the guy with the PhD in physics, the lad is studying physics at a leading university and complained that his professor was hard to understand because he delivered his lectures masked, and this was long after masking was required or recommended in large lecture halls. Odd how religious belief, here belief in The Science, trump’s education and training.

  2. “Reading between the lines” or deriving infomation not from what is written – which is usually totally obvious propaganda – but from what is omitted is the old well-lnown and widely practiced method of reading Soviet newspapers. Your closet Deploeable friend has either been living in an East Bloc country or, being smart, has independently rediscovered it.

    That said, NYT is too sloppy and inexperienced in the art of mass-lying: they left more than enough clues for somebody to actually find out what is going on. Anyway, the default assumption of every Soviet citizen was that everything in any newspaper is a lie. Excepting the daily crossword puzzle, of course. Americans need to learn this too, fast.

  3. The blog posts aren’t click bait. Greenspun really is focused on these topics in real life.

  4. Fun thing about 85 degrees water is that it feels refreshing when air temperature is 95 degrees. And may cause sinus.

    • O.R.: Thanks for this. “Florida is essentially sitting in a hot bath, with ocean temperatures off some of its coast higher than body temperature.” says the Nobel laureate. “OFF some of its coast” is the MIT PhD’s best characterization of a puddle in between the Keys and the mainland. I would say that this is “INSIDE some of its coast”.

    • DPA: Thanks for that link. It shows sea surface temp right now at 0.2 degrees C above what it was in 2022. If this bump were uniform around the globe and water at the Florida beach was 87 degrees last year, it should be 87.36 degrees this year.

  5. Phil the 8/9/22 to 8/9/23 difference appears to be 21.03 – 20.71 = 0.32 K. So if you were converting that change to Fahrenheit that would be an 0.576 degree difference. Not sure where you got the 0.2 K number from. Maybe I messed up in counting the right number of commas in the dataset, but eyeballing it the difference between the thick black and orange curves looks much closer to 0.3 K than 0.2 K.

    • DPA: I think that I was looking at the graph from 2018 or 2020, when it was slightly warmer than in 2022 (climate change means that sometimes our beloved Earth will cool before it goes Full Venus). So it is indeed a 0.3 C/K bump. Tough to get to 101F in the open ocean via a 0.3-degree C bump!

  6. Indeed, the 101 F figure was a silly error and its promotion an example of climate alarmism. Still, there’s ample evidence of anthropogenic warming and that’s a serious problem for humanity.

    • DPA: A propaganda campaign about dangerously hot ocean water “off Florida” is not an “error” if California Democrats believed it and, presumably, New York Democrats also believed it. If high-income people think that they’re going to be boiled alive at the beach they’re less likely to move to Florida. Disparaging Florida and Texas is critical to preserving tax base in properly governed states (see : “The Manhattan residents who moved to Palm Beach County had an average income of $728,351, IRS data showed.”).

      It also wouldn’t be an error if Democrats in swing districts/states could be persuaded to vote in larger numbers to save the planet from imminent destruction. (They are informed that Democrats holding power in Washington, D.C. will prevent the Chinese and Indians from emitting CO2.) Since Americans can’t be persuaded to switch sides, winning elections is all about driving turnout.

  7. Phil, I suspect it was carelessness (a class of error) of the NYT not to check that the number made sense. Perhaps they did try to check and someone mistakenly confirmed it. I agree that the NYT is too eager to publicize climate catastrophism. That said, global warming and other aspects of climate change are serious problems for humanity.

    • @DPA, do you think that climate was constant throughput Earth history? If yes then you are anti – #science how I was taught it HS and college. Who was guilty back when dinosaurs and mammoths roamed the Earth? Why did neither dinosaurs not mammoths did anything about their preferred climate? You are a specieist if you expect more from yahoos. As Obama and his perestroika managers used to say #disruptive #change (really should be $ for hash sign).
      I say climate $$$evolve.

  8. Interesting post. Thanks for the context.

    P.S. In California, we really did think your ocean was 100 degrees.

    I guess not.

  9. No of course the climate was not constant throughout earth’s history, but that is a silly point. The issue is what will now happen on human time scales (decades to centuries), not on scales of the Milankovitch cycles. When people resort to saying that “climate is always changing” I know they are not serious and don’t understand much of the science.

    • DPA: It is difficult to take the climate alarmists seriously because they don’t act as though the planet is melting (i.e., they act as though they don’t believe their own assertions, another way to say that they act as though they are lying). They don masks, hide in bunkers, and try to force 5-year-olds to get injected with experimental vaccines in hopes of reducing the death rate of a virus that killed 0.2% of Swedes, people who changed almost nothing in response to SARS-CoV-2. A person who says that he/she/ze/they is afraid that 100% of humanity will soon be wiped out cannot expect anyone to believe him/her/zir/them if he/she/ze/they is frantic about 0.2% of humanity being culled.

      Similarly, the climate alarmists express hysteria about purported book bans by the fascist tyrant Ron DeSantis. What difference does it make what books Florida kids read in school if they’re going to be killed soon by climate change-intensified hurricanes or washed away by a rise in sea levels?

      Even the climate alarmists’ Ukraine flags in their Twitter profiles reduce their credibility. If 100% of humanity is at risk of extinction, as Joe Biden says, it does not make sense to fight with the Russians about who controls which part of Ukraine. A climate alarmist should be desperate to cooperate with the Russians to reduce CO2 emissions.

      Climate alarmists fret about the skin color of those admitted to elite universities. Why does that matter when all Harvard, Yale, and Stanford graduates are likely to be killed soon, along with everyone else?

      Climate alarmists want to make sure that every teenager has access to gender-affirming surgery. Why does it matter when all humans, regardless of gender ID, are soon to be killed?

      If humanity is indeed facing the “existential threat” that Joe Biden, CNN, and the New York Times say that we are, the only sensible thing to do is devote all resources, beyond those necessary for immediate needs, to reducing atmospheric CO2.

    • (I’m going to do a blog post on this very subject. Greta Thunberg is still wearing a mask, for example. She doesn’t want her young slender body to be harvested by SARS-CoV-2 before the 200-degree F atmosphere kills her. The MIT professors who organized a June 2023 event at my old lab opened by talking about climate change being an existential threat. They then proceeded to talk about using AI to deal with medical problems that afflict a tiny percentage of the human population, something you’d be unlikely to do if you believed your own statement about 100% of humans being at risk of near-term death and species extinction.)

    • @DPA
      Do you think end of ice age was nicer for neanderthals? Humans adapt, do not kvetch that “we may loose our mammoth herd”. If you think acts of God, nature, history and real world events are for the little or dumb folks and that bright people are immune to it then it is not so bright.

    • DPA: Hollywood does this better than the real-life climate alarmists. When humanity faces some kind of existential threat, e.g., from weather or an asteroid impact, people around the world [in the movie] who are concerned about the threat cooperate and focus on that threat to the exclusion of all else. The Hollywood global-scale disaster movies show us, I think, what a person who sincerely believes that a near-term global-scale disaster is likely will behave like.

    • @philg, I always on a lookout for better cheese, This book does not apply to me as I entered workforce at a time when lifetime employment was crumbling and was used to undermine those who expected to sit on their asses at the same place for life, unknowingly to me. I have been suckered on workplace for a couple of times too of course, as we all are now by current inflation outside the workplace. I am not talking about human scheming.
      I am talking about real world events. It is not smart and arrogant to think that those who were tutored on how to lie on essays to get in Ivy league can resolve any of the real nature and world problems. Most of them can not even fix their cars or put a drywall in place, not even talking about more complex staff.
      There is huge difference between act of God and human desire to command and spaz. I am talking about first.

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