Research published Wednesday reports that the world’s oceans, which absorbed most of the excess heat from human carbon pollution, continued to set record temperatures last year.
Climate change has increased surface temperatures across the planet, destabilizing the atmosphere and amplifying extreme weather events such as storms.
The oceans absorb about 90 percent of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions, which warms land surfaces but generates massive, long-lasting marine heat waves that are already having devastating effects on life underwater.
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The study, conducted by researchers in China, the United States, Italy and New Zealand, said that 2022 was the “hottest year on record for the world’s oceans”.
Ocean heat content has exceeded previous year’s levels by about 10 joules of zeta – equivalent to 100 times the worldwide electricity generation in 2021, according to the authors.
“Most of the heat from human carbon emissions is absorbed by the oceans,” said co-author Michael Mann, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Until we get to net zero emissions, this heating will continue, and we will continue to break records for ocean heat content, as we did this year,” he said. Awareness and a better understanding of the oceans are the basis for action to combat climate change.
Records going back to the late 1950s show a relentless rise in ocean temperatures with almost continuous increases dating back to around 1985.
– ‘A nightmare for marine life’ –
Scientists warn that rising temperatures are causing major changes in the stability of the oceans faster than previously thought.
The research, published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, was based on observations of 24 scientists across 16 institutes around the world.
It also found other indicators of deteriorating ocean health.
Increasing water temperatures and ocean salinity—also at all-time highs—contribute directly to the process of “stratification,” where water separates into layers that no longer mix.
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This has wide ranging implications as it affects the exchange of heat, oxygen and carbon between the ocean and the atmosphere, with effects including the loss of oxygen to the ocean.
“Deoxygenation itself is a nightmare not only for marine life and ecosystems but also for humans and our terrestrial ecosystems,” the researchers said in a statement.
Updated data released this week showed average global atmospheric temperatures across 2022 making it the fifth hottest year since records began in the 19th century, according to Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.
Countries around the world have faced a series of unprecedented natural disasters made more likely and deadlier by climate change.
Many of these impacts can be linked to the rapidly warming ocean and related changes in the hydrological cycle.
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said co-author Kevin Trenberth of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Auckland.