Earth's Oceans Are Heating Up Much Faster Than We Thought, Warns New Report

A crucial analysis released Thursday reveals that the world’s oceans are not only warming but also that their rate of warming is accelerating — a lot faster than we thought. In the Science paper, newly available data on ocean heat demonstrates that since the ‘60s, ocean warming has been stronger and more consistent than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change previously reported. The consequences, scientists say, will be severe and long-lasting, but human action can still mitigate how bad the outcome will be.

The article is based on reconstructions of past ocean temperature records and observational records gathered by an ocean observing system called Argo. Since the early 2000s, this international program has collected real-time data from a global array of 3,000 floats, which measure ocean temperature, salinity, and currents. Data collected through Argo demonstrates that 2018 is likely to be the hottest year for the oceans on record.

“In this study, we show that global warming is ocean warming — and ocean warming has serious consequences,” lead author Lijing Cheng, Ph.D. of the Chinese Academy of Sciences tells Inverse. “The ocean warming is mainly driven by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities.” 

This increase in heat-trapping gases, Cheng explains, has produced an “energy imbalance” between incoming solar radiation and outgoing long-wave radiation. That imbalance leads to global heating: Now, it’s understood that more than 90 percent of the global warming heat ends up deposited in the world’s oceans.

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