Oceans heating faster than previously thought, study finds

James Marshall
November 4, 2018

A new report suggests that this has made seawater even warmer than we thought.

If it wasn't for our oceans, we would be well and truly screwed.

The last assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change revealed that oceans around the world are absorbing about 90 percent of excess heat from the planet.

Researchers used Scripps' high-precision measurements of oxygen and Carbon dioxide in the air to determine how much heat the oceans have stored during the time span they studied.

Imagine if the ocean was only 30 feet deep, said first author Laure Resplandy, an assistant professor of geosciences and the Princeton Environmental Institute.

Scientists have long warned that we have to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels to avoid a future of frequent climate disasters.

As a result, estimates for sea level rise, sea ice melting and coral reefs dying are likely going to be on the worse ends of the ranges scientists thought were possible. "Actually, this makes it harder to reach that goal", said Resplandy.

The discovery took place because the authors of the new study were not satisfied with the information about the temperature and salinity of the ocean, which is compiled from a system of nearly 4,000 ocean buoys in waters around the world, called Argo.

"All of these estimates use the same imperfect set of ocean data", they wrote. Also, the Argo floats do not track much of what happened before 2007. The researchers used a different way to measure ocean warmth, "an independent estimate by using measurements of atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide-levels of which increase as the ocean warms and releases gases-as a whole-ocean thermometer".

"When the ocean warms, it loses gases, and oxygen is one of them", Resplandy said. They traced 25 years of data, from 2016 back to 1991.

That is 60 percent higher than previous studies showed.

The UN report used the old assumptions for heat absorbed in the ocean, Miller added. If oceans rise faster than forecast, that represents more of an immediate threat to low-lying communities.

The Sea of Japan, for example, has warmed around 3 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 100 years, as Reuters recently reported. So some squid populations are already swimming to the north in search of cooler water with more oxygen.

Resplandy said that given those kinds of observations, she wasn't surprised by her results.

If anything, the findings help explain why we're already seeing so much sea-level rise and why numerous ocean's creatures are seeking refuge in new locations.

Despite that, the researcher said that it is not a reason to lose hope, but that the findings should serve to duplicate efforts to save the planet.

In the event that society is to keep temperatures from rising that check, emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas substance created by human exercises, must be diminished by 25 percent contrasted with what was beforehand assessed.

The study found that current means of acquiring data on ocean temperatures, which rely on floating robotic devices that transmit readings to satellites, known as the Argo array, have gaps in coverage as some parts of the ocean have too many floats while some have too few.

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