FunNature & AnimalOcean water breaks a new temperature record in 2019

Ocean water breaks a new temperature record in 2019

A new study published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences confirms this: The warming of the oceans is not only increasing, it is accelerating. In 2019 the highest temperature was recorded since there is data , especially in the area that goes between the surface and the first 2,000 meters of depth.

In addition, the rise is not punctual but is part of a very clear trend: the temperature in the oceans in the last ten years has been the highest recorded so far , and so has been in turn that of the last five years .

According to the study, the ocean temperature in 2019 is about 0.075 ° C above the 1981-2010 average. To explain what this figure means, the authors resort to a chilling simile: in the last twenty-five years the oceans have received an amount of heat equivalent to 3.6 billion explosions from atomic bombs like the one in Hiroshima.

The work was carried out by scientists from eleven institutions in different parts of the world who used a new analysis system to examine two independent data sets of ocean water temperatures. In this way, it was possible to examine the changes in ocean temperatures since the 1950s, discovering, for example, that in the last three decades (1987-2019) warming has been 450% higher than the period that includes the previous three decades. (1955-1986).

Why is warming of the oceans relevant (and worrying)?

It is estimated that, since 1970, the oceans have absorbed more than 90% of the heat produced as a result of the emission of greenhouse gases , while less than 4% of it would have gone to the land and the atmosphere. Therefore, if we are only left with the data for the increase in atmospheric temperatures, which is the one that is usually handled, we will be seeing only the tip of the iceberg. ” If we want to understand global warming, we have to study the warming of the oceans, ” emphasizes John Abraham, professor at the University of St. Thomas in the US and co-author of the work.

We do not live in the sea, but what happens there affects us, and a lot, since the relationship between the ocean and the atmosphere is very close. The warming of the oceans causes changes in the atmospheric circulation that can cause droughts, floods and changes in the rainfall regime anywhere on the planet. Not to mention rising sea levels, which threatens to wipe out some of the most densely populated cities on the planet.

Marine life is also affected by warming waters. The authors cite the example of what has been called “La Gota” (the blob), a huge mass of warm water detected in the Pacific in 2013. “ The drop caused very serious damage to marine life and affected phytoplankton , zooplankton, fish and whales ”, recalls Kevin Trenberth, researcher at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research and co-author of the study. “These manifestations of global warming have serious consequences.”

The team of scientists is now investigating the implications of this warming of the oceans on issues such as the buoyancy of water, a characteristic that in turn determines the distribution of nutrients and heat in the oceans.

In September 2019 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its special report on oceans in which it recalled that very profound changes are taking place in the oceans and in the cryosphere, some of which are irreversible, even if they are fulfilled. the most optimistic scenarios for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Allies against climate change

As we have already seen, global warming takes its toll on the oceans, but these may in turn be part of the solution. The oceans are known to function as a sink for CO2 and have an enormous capacity to absorb it: up to 31% of all anthropogenic CO2, according to a study published in the journal Science in 2019. They do not have that fame, but the oceans they are, surely, the true lungs of the planet.

The authors of the work just published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences conclude that action is urgent because if we do so, we can mitigate many of the negative effects of global warming. ” The price we pay for the rise in ocean temperature is high: reduction of dissolved oxygen in water, loss of marine biodiversity, increased storms, reduced fishing and economies that depend on the sea “, reflects Lijing Cheng , a researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and lead author of the work. “However, the more we reduce greenhouse gases, the less the ocean will warm. The way forward is clear: reduce, reuse, recycle and transition to clean energy systems,” he concludes.

Reference: Cheng et al. 2020. Record-Setting Ocean Warmth Continued in 2019. Advances in Atmospheric Sciences 37 (2) 137–142

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