Oceans warming much faster than previously thought

Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland Australia 2018

Imaginechina via APLandscape of the Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland Australia 2018

THE world's oceans are heating up at an accelerating pace as global warming threatens a diverse range of marine life and a major food supply for the planet, researchers said yesterday.

The newly available data show stronger ocean warming since 1960 than earlier reported by the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report in 2013.

'It´s mainly driven by the accumulation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to human activities, ' said Lijing Cheng, a lead author of the study from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. "2018 was the warmest year on record for the global ocean, surpassing 2017", added the research leading author, Lijing Cheng at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. That would mean a sea level rise of 30 centimeters or about a foot in addition to the rise in sea levels caused by melting of glaciers and ice sheets. 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.

Assuming a "business-as-usual" scenario in which no effort has been made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5 (CMIP5) models predict that the temperature of the top 2,000 meters of the world's oceans will rise 0.78 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

For the new study, scientists used data collected by a high-tech ocean observing system called Argo, an worldwide network of more than 3,000 robotic floats that continuously measure the temperature and salinityof the water.

"The global warming signal is a lot easier to detect if it is changing in the oceans than on the surface". This ocean-monitoring battalion, called Argo, has provided consistent and widespread data on ocean heat content since the mid-2000s.

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Overall, temperatures in the ocean down to 2,000 metres rose about 0.1 degree Celsius (0.18F) from 1971-2010, he said. Moreover, the revised and updated ocean heat content record is much more in step with the warming predicted by climate models, thereby providing much more confidence in expectations for the future.

'If you want to see where global warming is happening, look in our oceans, ' said Zeke Hausfather, a graduate student in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of the paper.

Ocean warming is reducing the levels of oxygen in the oceans and affects the coral reefs around the world.

The robots dive to a depth of 2000 metres every few days, recording the temperature as they float back up to the surface.

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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