The oceans got even warmer last year than the year before, supercharging already extreme weather patterns worldwide, according to a recent report published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.
Twenty-three international scientists analyzed thousands of ocean temperature measurements. Since 2018, when the group first began publishing their findings, they have found that ocean temperatures are rising each year.
But the warming isn’t consistent around the planet.
In 2021, the researchers discovered that because of wind patterns and currents, some parts of the Atlantic, Indian and northern Pacific oceans warmed more quickly.
“The motion of water in the world’s oceans distributes the heat in a nonuniform way, so some areas get more heat and others less, meaning certain parts of the oceans warm faster than others,” said John Abraham, a co-author of the study and climate scientist at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.
Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases from human activities are making the oceans too hot, Abraham told VOA.
“Last year, the oceans absorbed heat the equivalent of seven Hiroshima bombs being detonated in the ocean every second of every day, 365 days each year,” he said.
But even a slight rise in the temperature can be devastating.
“Last year, the surface temperatures of the oceans increased about 1 degree Celsius,” said Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University and a contributor to the report. “And while that might sound like a small amount of warming, even modest changes in temperature can have a huge impact on the climate system, which can cause fish populations to decline and ice sheets to collapse in Antarctica.”
Only a small amount of heat from greenhouse gases actually gets trapped in the atmosphere. Most of it gets absorbed by the oceans.
“The oceans store 90% of global warming heat and are a robust indicator of climate change. Now, our oceans are warming at an exceptional rate that has serious consequences,” said Lijing Cheng, lead author of the study and an associate professor with the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
“Sea level rise makes coastal communities more susceptible to storm surges that threaten coastal infrastructure,” Cheng told VOA.
Warming oceans are creating havoc on the Earth’s weather systems.
“The oceans drive the weather,” Abraham said. “Warmer oceans are making our weather wilder — going from one extreme to another more rapidly,” he said. “The oceans are heating and moistening the atmosphere, which is creating more intense storms.”
Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and even snowstorms “are all connected to warming oceans,” said Alexey Mishonov, another co-author and an associate research scientist at the University of Maryland’s Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center.
Mann said greenhouse gases need to be significantly curbed soon or the environmental consequences will become even worse.
“We’ve got to bring carbon emissions down by 50% within this decade,” he said. “We need governments to provide incentives to move the energy and transportation industries away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.”
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