Oceans absorb more than 90 percent of excess heat created by greenhouse gas emissions Photo: AFP/File

Oceans were hottest on record in 2019

By Patrick GALEY

The world's oceans were the hottest in recorded history in 2019, scientists said on Tuesday, as manmade emissions warmed seas at an ever-increasing rate with potentially disastrous impacts on Earth's climate.

Oceans absorb more than 90 percent of excess heat created by greenhouse gas emissions and quantifying how much they have warmed up in recent years gives scientists an accurate read on the rate of global warming.

A team of experts from around the world looked at data compiled by China's Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP) to gain a clear picture of ocean warmth to a depth of 2,000 meters over several decades.

They found that oceans last year were by far the hottest ever recorded and said that the effects of ocean warming were already being felt in the form of more extreme weather, rising sea levels and damage to marine life.

The study, published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, said that last year the ocean was 0.075 Celsius hotter than the historical average between 1981-2010.

That means the world's oceans have absorbed 228 Zetta Joules (228 billion trillion Joules) of energy in recent decades.

"That's a lot of zeros," said Cheng Lijing, lead paper author and associate professor at the International Centre for Climate and Environmental Sciences at the IAP. "The amount of heat we have put in the world's oceans in the past 25 years equals 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom bomb explosions."

The past five years are the five hottest years for the ocean, the study found.

As well as the mid-term warming trend, the data showed that the ocean had absorbed 25 Zetta Joules of additional energy in 2019 compared with 2018's figure.

"That's roughly equivalent to everyone on the planet running a hundred hairdryers or a hundred microwaves continuously for the entire year," Michael Mann, director of Penn State's Earth System Sciences Center, told AFP.

The 2015 Paris accord aims to limit global temperature rises to "well below" 2C, and to 1.5C if at all possible.

With just 1C of warming since the pre-industrial period, Earth has experienced a cascade of droughts, superstorms, floods and wildfires made more likely by climate change.

The study authors said there was a clear link between climate-related disasters -- such as the bushfires that have ravaged southeastern Australia for months -- and warming oceans.

Warmer seas mean more evaporation, said Mann.

"That means more rainfall but also it means more evaporative demand by the atmosphere," he said.

"That in turn leads to drying of the continents, a major factor that is behind the recent wildfires from the Amazon all the way to the Arctic, and including California and Australia."

Hotter oceans also expand, leading to sea level rises.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in a landmark oceans report last year warned that tens of millions of people could be displaced from coastal areas by the end of the century because of encroaching seas.

And given that the ocean has a far higher heat absorption capacity than the atmosphere, scientists believe they will continue to warm even if humanity manages to drag down its emissions in line with the Paris goals.

"As long as we continue to warm up the planet with carbon emissions, we expect about 90 percent of the heating to continue to go into the oceans," said Mann. "If we stop warming up the planet, heat will continue to diffuse down into the deep ocean for centuries, until eventually stabilising."

© 2020 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Like the snowball effect, but in this case the snowball is more like a fireball.

Are we just a little past or are we way past the tipping point?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The study authors said there was a clear link between climate-related disasters -- such as the bushfires that have ravaged southeastern Australia for months -- and warming oceans.

Which is refuted by some scientists paid by the globe's largest oil, gas and coal producers and the globe's largest oil producing states, including Trump-led US, Russia and the Gulf theocracies. As long as Trump and the GOP are in charge and as long as they continue to be supported by the big oil, gas and coal corporations and the big oil producing states, expect big oil to continue its century long control of the fossil economy.

Expect them to make extreme all or nothing defenses, make ridiculous claims like 'it's either big oil's way or no more cars', i.e. their usual A or Z, nothing in between.

Those who trust Tulsi Gabbard (the book's still out for me) should be aware she believes in climate change and questions big oil. At least for now.

Tulsi is a top leader in fighting for urgent action to address climate change


1 ( +2 / -1 )

Interesting point by the article and the scientists. However, one must also study the effects of "pollution" in the ocean waters itself, the amount of pollutants that now are in the oceans from plastics to huge amounts of other waste including chemicals that react to everything from sunlight to changes in air temperature as well as waters from rivers and ocean going vessels. The massive pollution being added by tsunamis and rivers all over the world definitely must be addressed. Even volcanic activity below at the seabed as tectonic movement exposes more hot surfaces must be taken into account. All the pollutants also help the oceans absorb heat. To attribute all to carbon emissions may not be the complete picture.

We are all aware that there is global warming, but blaming humanity as we do now has more than one aspect to consider. The increase in volcanic activity to the massive fires are contributing to the pollution and the carbon emissions. However the loss of vegetation all over the world, while massive increase in animal life, especially humans and their need for food supply have increased heat absorbing surfaces on earth which in turn heat everything.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

warmed seas at an ever-increasing rate

The increasing rate is what's most worrisome

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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