A study has found that warmer waters off North America’s West Coast caused many kinds of sea life to move farther north than ever before. The study was a project of scientists from the University of California, Davis. Their findings were reported in the online publication Scientific Reports. The scientists examined waters off the coast of Northern California in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

The researchers say they identified a total of 67 species between 2014 and 2016, during what was described as a “marine heatwave.” Marine heatwaves were defined in the study “as periods of extreme sea surface temperatures lasting for days to months.” The 2014-2016 heatwave is thought to be the largest ever recorded.

The warmer waters were partly a product of El Niño conditions during the same period, researchers noted. El Niño develops when winds off the coast of South America weaken. This enables warm water in the western Pacific to move eastward. El Niño often causes ocean temperatures in the area to rise between 2 to 4 degrees Celsius, the study found.

The researchers reported that 37 of the 67 species they studied had never before been observed so far north as California. Some species were discovered outside a marine laboratory belonging to the University of California, Davis. A few were even found north of California, off the state of Oregon. The northward travel of so many different sea creatures was considered “unprecedented” by the researchers.

Scientists involved in the study believe the findings can provide valuable information for predicting future sea life reactions to warming oceans.

A 2017 report in Yale University’s online magazine Environment 360 explores this subject. The report notes that for many years, the ocean “has served as our best defense against climate change.” This is because ocean waters have taken in nearly all of the atmosphere’s extra heat. This has led to warmer oceans, with experts predicting continuing rising temperatures.

Exercise 1


Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.

species (n.)  /ˈspiːʃiz/  -  a group of animals or plants that are similar and can produce young animals or plants

  • There are approximately 8,000 species of ants.

marine (adj.) /məˈriːn/ - Relating to or found in the sea.

  • My cousin is a marine biologist.

unprecedented (adj.) /ˌʌnˈprɛsəˌdɛntəd/ - Never done or known before.

  • The team has enjoyed unprecedented success this year.


Exercise 2


Answer these questions about the article.

1. Where were the findings of the study published?

2. What is El Niño?

3. Why is ocean "our best defense against climate change"?


Exercise 3

Make a sentence.

Make sentences using these words.

species, marine, unprecedented


Exercise 4


Have a discussion on following questions.

1. What do you think about the findings of the study?

2. Can you mention other effects that climate change has had on the environment?

3. Who does climate change affect the most?

4. Is climate change caused by humans or not, in your opinion?



This lesson is based on a news article originally published by VOA.