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The real reason why this pic of sharks right off the Florida coast is scary.

Thousands of sharks are hanging out near Fort Lauderdale right now.

The real reason why this pic of sharks right off the Florida coast is scary.

Right now, there are tens of thousands of sharks chilling off the coast of Florida.

If you ask me — someone who is terribly afraid of sharks — this aerial shot is what nightmares are made of.

Photo by Mark Mohlmann​, used with permission from Stephen Kajiura​.


These marine beasts are on the move. Just like (most) humans, sharks don't like swimming in frigid waters. So every winter, they wander to warmer temperatures. Like the coast of Florida.

While cold-blooded shark-phobic Chicagoans like me would be running in the opposite direction, Floridans haven't let this swarm of migrating toothy killers complicate their beach plans. You can still spot them swimming, boating, and paddle boarding near the Palm Beach County coastline doing their thing — as if there aren't fanged, blood-thirsty sea savages just hundreds of feet away. (Officials haven't stopped them from their fun in the sun, either! How irresponsible.)

...OK, I get it — they're not that bad. My irrational fear of sharks is completely distorting the situation. But still ... you wouldn't judge me for postponing my Florida vacay right about now, right?

Photo by Mark Mohlmann​, used with permission from Stephen Kajiura​.

These sharks aren't actually all that scary when you get your facts straight.

Despite the images that look like they were snapped during the filming of some twisted version of "Jaws 5," (they're on #5, right?) these creatures aren't so bad.

These are blacktip sharks. They average about six feet in length, and — despite the swarms of black dots you see on these photos — are actually on the "near-threatened" list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, as The Washington Post noted. For the most part, they stay clear of people.

Photo by Mark Mohlmann​, used with permission from Stephen Kajiura​.

“These sharks are pretty skittish,” Stephen Kajiura, an associate professor at Florida Atlantic University who's tagging the animals to better understand how they migrate across open waters, told ABC News. “So when they see a human, they swim away.”

Although blacktip sharks have the largest number of bites than any other shark in Florida (in large part because they're the most common), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that they've never killed anyone there. For the most part, they do their thing, and we do ours.

While the sharks themselves aren't all that scary, their migration patterns hint at something a bit more terrifying.

Yep. It's climate change: the ultimate party pooper. 

Usually, the sharks would migrate a bit farther south, toward Miami, according to Kajiura. But it seems as though they've found just the right temperatures near neighboring Fort Lauderdale this year. And a warming ocean may play a role in the sharks' decision to stay put up the coast.

“It looks like there’s a correlation between global warming and [the blacktip sharks'] expanding range,” Kajiura told The Christian Science Monitor. “They’re moving further north to find their ideal temperature.”

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

While this doesn't pose an increased safety risk to any people (again, these sharks aren't nearly as villainous or terrifying as my shark-phobia suggests), this "expanding range" Kajiura speaks of should raise some eyebrows.

Climate change is drastically changing our oceans and the life in them, and the effects are (and will continue to be) costly.

Increasingly higher temperatures could make our oceans unrecognizable by the end of this century unless carbon emissions are slashed big time (and soon), research suggests.

Photo by Torsten Blackwood - Pool/Getty Images.

study released last summer found that by 2100, climate change could be the culprit of the most dramatic re-arrangement of marine life in at least 3 million years, as Mashable reported. 

Oceans near the poles (where not a whole lot of people live) will see a big rise in sea life as its waters heat up, while biodiversity in waters near the equator (where lots of people live) will plummet. This could have huge ramifications on industries like fishing, and mean major (and expensive) economic shifts.

“It’s really worrying, because this is the whole ocean that will change,” Grégory Beaugrand, who co-authored the study published in the journal, "Nature Climate Change," told Mashable.

This re-arrangement "will have a devastating impact on fisherman and from a socioeconomic point of view."

There's reason to hope the world is finally taking climate change more seriously, though. And that's good news for sharks (and people).

Last year was historic in the fight against global warming. A United Nations summit in Paris brought together countries from all over the world — including the major carbon offenders (yeah, I'm looking at you, America and China) — to set ambitious goals to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Environmentalists are cautiously optimistic the agreed upon carbon targets could be a turning point.

Photo by Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images.

And, hey, get this: Due to increased use of renewable energies and China slowly kicking its dirty coal habit, 2015 is expected to be the very first year the world's carbon emissions stalled — or even declined — during a year of global economic growth, the BBC reported. That's pretty huge.

It's a good thing humanity is finally waking up to the dangers of climate change, because it's not just sharks whose home hangs in the balance.

Let's keep this earth as green (and blue) as long as we can.

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Watch the full story:

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Anne Owens and Luke Redito / Wikimedia Commons
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