A recently published study titled “Record-Setting Ocean Warmth Continued in 2019” revealed that the global temperature of water bodies broke all previous records in 2019.
A team of 14 scientists worked collectively on the study that has been published in the Journal of Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.
The scientists collected information about the temperatures of oceans dating back to the 1950s, analyzing the temperatures from the surface down to a depth of 2,000 meters.
According to the researchers, the oceans are getting warmer at an alarming rate. The last decade was recorded as the hottest for oceans. The temperature in the last 5 years rose sharply with 2019 being the warmest year ever. The upward trend compelled the researchers to conclude that oceans will continue to get warmer in years to come.
Between 1955 and 1986, oceans were warming steadily. Ocean warming started to gain pace post-1987, increasing massively in the latter years. From 1987 to 2019, the oceanic temperature increased by 450%.
Lijing Cheng, the study’s lead author, argued that greenhouse gases are responsible for the increase. Since the 1950s, the world’s oceans have taken in 28,000,000,000,000,000,000,000- or 228 sextillion- joules of heat. In comparison, the Hiroshima atom-bomb exploded with an energy of about 63,000,000,000,000 Joules. The heat stored in oceans is equal to 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom-bomb explosions, said Cheng.
To put it into perspective, it’s like dropping five Hiroshima bombs every second since the 1950s.
The Impact of Ocean Warming
Because oceans cover 3/4th of the Earth’s surface, most of the world’s heat gets trapped into them. Since 1970, oceans have had absorbed 90% of the global heat. The atmosphere and land accounted for just 4% of the absorbed heat.
Moreover, intensities of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Florence a year later were significantly higher due to record high temperatures in the oceans.
Marine wildlife faces an existential threat with an increase in temperatures. The upward trend of oceanic temperature means that water will become acidic as the oxygen level depletes.
For instance, during the 2011 heatwave in the Western Australian waters, marine life scientists recorded the fewest ever dolphin births. Increasing temperature also means that marine life would find it difficult to keep up with the changing weather systems.
The report concluded that the damage rendered to oceans is almost irreversible with little hope to reverse the changes. However, if emissions can be brought down, ocean warming can be decreased. It is the only way to reduce the risks and losses associated with warming waters.