Ocean temperatures rising faster than previously thought

Eloise Marshall
January 13, 2019

The oceans are warming at a faster rate than was thought, according to the biggest analysis of sea temperatures so far.

The planet is "clearly warming", according to the analysis.

The latest report relied on four studies, published between 2014 and 2017, that gave more precise estimates of past trends in ocean heat, allowing scientists to update past research and hone predictions for the future.

A resident of Pariahan village pumps drinking water from a well, on November 28, 2018 in Bulacan, north of Manila in the Philippines. The results provide further evidence that earlier claims of a slowdown or "hiatus" in global warming over the past 15 years were unfounded.

(Imaginechina via AP) Landscape of the Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland, Australia, 2018.

"It's mainly driven by the accumulation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to human activities", Lijing said. As a outcome, ocean warming has also accelerated faster than scientists expected.

The oxygen content in the world's oceans has decreased since 1960, an average of more than two percent, found a study at the Geomar Helmholtz centre for ocean research in the year 2017. Also, the quality of older ocean data has been substantially improved, and there are both better and independent methods that account for the sparseness of ocean data before Argo era.

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This thermal expansion will lead to a temperature rise of 0.78 degrees Celsius by the end of the century - raising sea levels a foot (30cm) on top of that caused by melting glaciers and ice sheets.

The fact that the oceans are warming is no breaking news.

A separate study on Monday, by the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service, said 2018 was the fourth warmest year for global surface temperatures in records dating back to the 19th century. 2015 is next warmest, although 2016 was the hottest for the global mean surface temperature, but that was in part because of the huge El Niño event that took place: the extra heat at the surface was at the expense of the ocean which cooled off slightly.

Nearly 200 nations plan to phase out fossil fuels this century under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit warming. US President Donald Trump, who wants to promote US fossil fuels, plans to pull out of the pact in 2020. If, however, humans act and can reach the goals set by the Paris agreement, ocean warming could be cut in half by 2081-2100, the authors said.

A warmer ocean also contributes to increases in rainfall and leads to stronger and longer-lasting storms like Hurricanes Florence and Harvey.

People jump into the Atlantic Ocean during the annual Polar Bear Plunge on New Year's Day in Coney Island on January 1, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

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