Each year in the past decade is among the top 10 warmest years on record in ocean temperatures.
The oceans absorb some 90% of the heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases and so by measuring water temperatures we can ascertain the degree of planetary warming.
And that degree is alarming. Each year in the past decade is among the top 10 warmest years on record when it comes to ocean temperatures. And last year ocean temperatures were higher than ever recorded, which indicates that this year they will be higher still.
So say scientists behind a new study in which they warn that the warming of the oceans is accelerating.
“We found that 2019 was not only the warmest year on record, it displayed the largest single-year increase of the entire decade, a sobering reminder that human-caused heating of our planet continues unabated,” said Prof. Michael Mann, a climate scientists at Penn State University in the United States.
The findings demonstrate that as greenhouse gases from manmade causes build up in the atmosphere, seas worldwide continue to warm. The rate at which oceans warn should be a cause for grave concern. Between 1987 and 2019 oceans warmed four and a half times faster than they did between 1955 and 1986. In fact, the heat added to seas by worldwide warming fueled by greenhouse gases amounts to each human being on Earth running 100 microwave ovens all the time, the experts observe.
Warming water temperatures are set to deal blows to fragile marine ecosystems, many of which are already teetering on the brink of collapse. They include embattled coral reefs that harbor much of the oceans’ marine creatures. “The upper layers of the ocean are vital for marine biodiversity, as they support some of the most productive and rich ecosystems on Earth, and warming of this magnitude will dramatically impact on marine life,” says Dan Smale, a marine biologist in the United Kingdom.
Warming water temperatures are also causing ice to melt, which is set to raise sea levels worldwide. By the end of this century sea level will likely rise by 1 meter, inundating coastal areas worldwide. The situation is dire. To make matters worse, weather patterns, too, are about to change, wreaking havoc with ecosystems on land.
“When the world and the oceans heat up, it changes the way rain falls and evaporates,” explains Prof. John Abraham, a professor of thermal sciences at the University of St Thomas in Minnesota. “There’s a general rule of thumb that drier areas are going to become drier and wetter areas are going to become wetter, and rainfall will happen in bigger downbursts,” he adds.