Oceans heating up faster than expected, set record in 2018

Pablo Tucker
January 13, 2019

The second scenario assumes no change in emissions and projects warming that could severely affect ocean ecosystems and sea levels.

"If you want to see where global warming is happening, look in our oceans", Zeke Hausfather, a UC Berkeley graduate student and co-author of the research paper, said in the blog post.

The new study analyzed earlier published information and data compiled by Argo, an global system of almost 4,000 floats that measures temperature and saline levels in the upper parts of the world's oceans.

"It's mainly driven by the accumulation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to human activities", Lijing said.

If humans don't do anything to mitigate climate change, warming in the upper part of the ocean will be six times higher by 2081-2100 than total ocean warming in the past 60 years, researchers estimate. Emissions in the United States jumped 3.4 percent a year ago from 2017 - the second-largest annual increase in more than two decades, according to a preliminary estimate by the economic research company Rhodium Group. This change would cause sea levels to raise 30 centimeters, ice glaciers to melt, and stronger storms to hit continents. He states that ocean heating is an important indicator of climate change, noting that there is "robust evidence" that oceans are warming more rapidly than previously believed.

About 93 percent of excess heat - trapped around the Earth by greenhouse gases that come from the burning of fossil fuels - accumulates in the world's oceans. Dubbed Argo, the AI fleet has provided consistent ocean warming data since the mid-2000s, and enabled the team to correct previous ocean warming observations. The scientists reached that conclusion thanks to about 4,000 buoys deployed in the oceans since 2000 that have measured more ocean warming since 1971 than the United Nations latest estimates, from 2013, revealed.

They drift across the world, every few days diving to a depth of 2,000 metres measuring temperature, salt and chemicals as they rise back up. According to Lijing Cheng, one of the study's authors, temperatures down to 2,000 meters rose about 0.1 degree Celsius (0.18F) between 1971-2010, according to Reuters. It can take more than 1,000 years for deep ocean temperatures to adjust to changes at the surface. Warmer temperature will also damage coral reefs, which are actually nurseries for fish. The results provide further evidence that earlier claims of a slowdown or "hiatus" in global warming over the past 15 years were unfounded.

Through the data collected, scientists have documented increases in rainfall intensity and more powerful storms such as hurricanes Harvey in 2017 and Florence in 2018.

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