After discrepancies between climate models projecting higher levels of ocean warming and observational data showing lower temperatures, a recent article published in Science demonstrated that the world’s oceans are warming about 40 percent faster than previously projected. Apparently, the higher numbers were right, and even though this gives scientists a better understanding of climate change, the reality of the situation could be alarming for marine life and coastal residents.
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, published in 2013, showed that leading climate change models seemed to predict a much faster increase in ocean heat content over the last 30 years than was seen in observations,” study author and University of California (UC) Berkeley graduate student Zeke Hausfather said in a UC Berkeley press release.
Hausfather says that was a problem because this is something they need the models to get right. Now that the corrected records agree with climate models, it is an encouraging step that removes major uncertainty.
Oceans are incredibly important when understanding the implications of global warming, as they can absorb more than 93 percent of the solar energy that becomes trapped by greenhouse gasses. Not to mention, ocean warming can lead to severe consequences such as sea level rise, stronger storms and loss of ocean life.
Hausfather explains that the best place to see where global warming is happening is to look at the oceans. While current technological methods have allowed for better oceanic temperature readings, it was more difficult to obtain clear readings before the mid 2000s, when 4,000 floating robots called Argo were distributed.
This network of robots dives into the ocean every few days to take temperature, PH and salinity readings. Before the creation of Argo, bathythermographs were the only thing that could take ocean measurements. Yet, they could only be used once because they couldn’t be recovered from the ocean floor.
Now that we have accurate measurements, we can understand the steady increase of ocean temperatures. Hausfather wrote on Twitter that 2018 would beat out the second-place year (2017) “by a comfortable margin” for warmest year.
Image via dimitrisvetsikas1969