Oceans, wilderness, United Kingdom weather: scientists step up climate warnings

04 November, 2018, 19:58 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • A man walks past a boat anchored at the Indian Ocean in Mombasa 2011. /FILE

This unexpectedly strong ocean warming suggests the Earth is more sensitive to fossil-fuel emissions than previously thought, said a published study led by researchers from Princeton, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California-San Diego.

It's also 150 times more energy than what humans produce as electricity every year. The planet warmed more than we thought.

Previous estimates relied on millions of spot measurements of ocean temperature, which were interpolated to calculate total heat content. Gaps in coverage, however, make this approach uncertain.

The U.S. has since pulled out of that climate agreement, but most of the rest of the world remains focused on limiting the rise of the world's average temperatures. Recently the IPCC spelled out clearly the benefits to the world of keeping below the lower goal of 1.5C relative to pre-industrial levels. The authors of the new study weren't satisfied with the ocean temperature and salinity information that people have always used, which is gathered from a system of almost 4,000 ocean buoys in waters around the world, called Argo.

"If the ocean warms more than we thought, which is what we find in that study, the earth warms more than we thought", said study lead author Laure Resplandy, a Princeton geoscientist, in an interview with USA TODAY. "This is a new complementary method, and the results are quite compatible with our estimates for the most part", he wrote in an email.Dr. Resplandy said her work did not upend the I.P.C.C. report's warnings that humanity has only a couple of decades to ward off some of climate change's most catastrophic effects."It doesn't change the results", she said. The report also suggests that more heat is being generated by greenhouse gases, making it more hard to control the changing climate in the next couple of decades.

"A warmer ocean will hold less oxygen, and that has implications for marine ecosystems", said Dr Resplandy.

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Much of the data on ocean temperatures now relies on the Argo array - robotic devices that float at different depths, surfacing roughly every 10 days to transmit readings to satellites. A network of robotic sensors known as Argo now makes comprehensive measurements of ocean temperature and salinity across the globe, but the network only has complete data going back to 2007 and only measures the upper half of the ocean.

Because the ocean takes up around 90% of all excess energy as the planet warms, knowing the actual amount of energy makes it possible to estimate the surface warming we can expect in the future.

As the ocean warms, these gases tend to be released into the air, which increases APO levels.

"It's an intriguing new clue", he said, "but it's certainly not the case that this study alone suggests that we have been systematically under-representing the oceanic warming".

As the seas are now retaining additional energy, more is becoming trapped by Earth's atmosphere.

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