Oceans heating faster than previously thought

Getty  MKnighton  Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing As the ocean warms it loses oxygen making it harder for sea life to survive

Oceans not only purify the air but also absorb heat; and in the last 200 years, they have been performing that function with the gases that we humans have been emitting. Previous estimates suggested that these vast bodies of water had collectively absorbed more than 90% of the excess thermal energy.

A new report reveals that scientists have seriously underestimated exactly how much heat the world's oceans are absorbing due to global warming.

"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 new reality also suggests it's even more unlikely that Earth's warming will stay below the 2-degree Celsius maximum set in the Paris agreement.

The study found that current means of acquiring data on ocean temperatures, which rely on floating robotic devices that transmit readings to satellites, known as the Argo array, have gaps in coverage as some parts of the ocean have too many floats while some have too few.

The scientists say global policymakers have so far failed to make intact ecosystems an explicit target for conservation, such zones risk disappearing completely. 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.

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You can reasonably argue that measuring ocean temperatures using thermometers is a lot more accurate, and you would be right. What's more, the Argo floats don't track much of what happened before 2007. They gauged ocean heat by taking a gander at the consolidated measure of O2 and Carbon dioxide in air, an amount they call "atmospheric potential oxygen" or APO.

According to their most recent assessment this month, scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) say the world's oceans have absorbed 90 percent of the temperature rise caused by man-made carbon emissions. In addition, they tracked 25 years of data, from 2016 to 1991.

The result, the paper's authors said, "suggests that ocean warming is at the high end of previous estimates, with implications for policy-relevant measurements of the Earth response to climate change, such as climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases and the thermal component of sea-level rise".

The UN report found that the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, precipitating the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people. So some squid populations are already swimming to the north in search of cooler water with more oxygen.

Despite that, the researcher said that it is not a reason to lose hope, but that the findings should serve to duplicate efforts to save the planet. To avoid this, we need to cut our carbon emission ASAP.

"The result significantly increases the confidence we can place in estimates of ocean warming and therefore helps reduce uncertainty in the climate sensitivity, particularly closing off the possibility of very low climate sensitivity", Keeling said.

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