New study shows oceans warming even faster than thought


Paris - The world's oceans have absorbed 60% more heat than previously thought over the past quarter of a century, scientists said on Thursday, leaving the Earth more sensitive still to the effects of climate change. Researchers found that the oceans have soaked about 150 times the amount of energy needed to generate electricity around the world.

The new research, funded by the Princeton Environmental Institute and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, estimates that the world's oceans absorbed almost 13 zettajoules of heat each year between 1991 and 2016.

According to Resplandy, the world's oceans have taken up more than 13 zettajoules of energy every year between 1991 and 2016.

"We thought that we got away with not a lot of warming in both the ocean and the atmosphere for the amount of [carbon dioxide] that we emitted", one of the report's authors, Princeton geoscientist Laure Resplandy. "Our data shows that it would have warmed by 6.5℃ (11.7℉) every decade since 1991".

A report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier this month called for "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes" to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius instead of 2 degrees, in order to offer the best chance of protecting people, property and natural ecosystems - and "ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society".

Resplandy and Keeling instead collected data by measuring the volume of gases, particularly oxygen and carbon dioxide, that have escaped the ocean as it heats up and entered the atmosphere over the past few decades.

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As the ocean warms, these gases are released into the air, which increases APO levels.

Most climate scientists have agreed that if global average temperatures exceed pre-industrial levels by 2 degrees Celsius, it is all but certain society will face widespread and risky consequences of climate change.

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".

"It's not that easy to reliably estimate the whole ocean heat from spot measurements", Keeling said. That could indicate the Earth is warming faster than than scientists have been estimating.

"When the ocean warms, it loses some gas to the atmosphere", said Resplandy. APO also is influenced by burning fossil fuels and by an ocean process involving the uptake of excess fossil-fuel CO2. The changes include reducing fossil fuel use while quickly adopting more sources of clean energy. Not only do they absorb heaps of our carbon emissions, but we also rely on them to soak up over 90 percent of excess heat energy. The work was funded by the Climate Program Office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (grant NA13OAR4310219) and the Princeton Environmental Institute.