Ris­ing sea tem­per­a­tures set record after record

Study: Oceans heat­ing faster than we thought

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - Doyle Rice

Global warm­ing isn’t only cook­ing our at­mos­phere, it’s also heat­ing up the oceans.

The world’s seas were the warm­est on record in 2018, sci­en­tists an­nounced last week. Also, ocean tem­per­a­tures are ris­ing faster than pre­vi­ously thought, a new paper said.

Specif­i­cally, they’re warm­ing as much as 40 per­cent faster than an es­ti­mate from a United Na­tions panel just five years ago.

“If you want to see where global warm­ing is hap­pen­ing, look in our oceans,” paper co-au­thor Zeke Haus­fa­ther said in a state­ment. “Ocean heat­ing is a very im­por­tant in­di­ca­tor of cli­mate change, and we have ro­bust ev­i­dence that it is warm­ing more rapidly than we thought,” said Haus­fa­ther, a cli­mate sci­en­tist with Car­bon Brief, a British-based web­site that cov­ers cli­mate sci­ence news.

He also said that while 2018 was the fourth-warm­est year on record in the at­mos­phere, it was the warm­est year on record in the oceans, as was 2017 and 2016 be­fore that. In fact, Haus­fa­ther told Reuters, records for ocean warm­ing have been bro­ken al­most yearly since 2000.

Over­all, while we’re rightly con­cerned about what cli­mate change is do­ing to our at­mos­phere, ocean heat­ing is crit­i­cal be­cause an es­ti­mated 93 per­cent of all heat trapped by green­house gases set­tles in the world’s oceans.

Global warm­ing is caused by hu­man­ity’s burn­ing of fos­sil fu­els such as oil, gas and coal, which re­lease green­house gases like car­bon diox­ide and meth­ane into the earth’s at­mos­phere and oceans.

“Global warm­ing is here, and has ma­jor con­se­quences al­ready. There is no doubt, none!” the paper’s au­thors wrote.

The anal­y­sis also shows that trends in ocean heat con­tent match those pre­dicted by top com­puter models.

Laure Zanna, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of cli­mate physics at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford who was not in­volved in the study, told The New York Times that the re­search was “a very nice sum­mary of what we know of the ocean and how far the new es­ti­mates have come to­gether.”

The un­usual warmth in the seas is harm­ing ma­rine life and coral reefs. It’s also con­tribut­ing to ris­ing sea lev­els around the world as ice melts near Antarc­tica and Green­land.

The re­search was pub­lished Thurs­day in a “Per­spec­tives” paper in the peer-re­viewed jour­nal Sci­ence.


Ocean tem­per­a­tures are ris­ing faster than pre­vi­ously thought, with dire im­pli­ca­tions for coral reefs and other ma­rine life.

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