Skip to content

Sea surface temperature

Key Finding

Sea surface temperatures in the Coral Sea and around northern Australia are about +1oC warmer on average than 100 years ago, with the years 2009 through 2018 being the warmest 10-year period on record.

The Coral Sea region (4°S–26°S, 142°E–174°E) borders most of Queensland’s east coast. The Northern Tropics region (4°S–22°S, 94°E–174°E), which is more extensive, includes the Coral Sea, the Gulf of Carpentaria and the eastern Indian Ocean. For these regions, sea surface temperature (SST) records date back to 1900. Average annual (1961 to 1990) SSTs are 28.0°C for the Coral Sea region and 28.5°C for the Northern Tropics.

A warming trend has been evident in these regions throughout the entire period on record, resulting in SSTs that are now about +1°C warmer, on average, than 100 years ago. For both regions:

  • the period 2009 through 2018 was the warmest 10-year period on record, with SST anomalies being +0.5°C above average; and
  • 2016 was the warmest year on record, with SST anomalies being +0.9°C above average for the Coral Sea region and +1.0°C above average for the Northern Tropics region.

More information:

Relevant Sustainable Development Goals’ targets


Download data from Queensland Government data


Annual mean sea surface temperatures and anomalies were calculated from the  United States Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature Version 5 (ERSST v5) dataset. Data were current as at 14 February 2020. The sea surface temperature anomalies were calculated relative to the 1961-1990 base period.