A disturbing rise in ocean temperatures
Scientists have discovered that the world’s oceans are warming far faster than previously thought, raising the risk and scale of climate change–related natural disasters. The analysis found that the seas are heating up 40 percent more, on average, than was estimated by a United Nations scientific panel only five years ago, reports The New York Times. The new study—based on data gathered by a global network of floats that measure the temperature of the upper 6,500 feet of the ocean—also concluded that 2018 was the warmest year on record for oceans, just as 2017 and 2016 were before it. Earth’s oceans provide a crucial buffer against climate change by absorbing 93 percent of the excess heat caused by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions. In the past year alone, says study co-author John Abraham, from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, oceans have swallowed “about 150,000,000 Hiroshima bombs’ worth of heat.” Ocean warming can have deadly consequences: It raises sea levels—water expands as it warms—making coastal floods more common; increases the power of hurricanes; and bleaches coral reefs, killing off marine ecosystems. In separate research, scientists found the Antarctic has been shedding 250 billion tons of ice a year since 2009, up from 40 billion a year from 1979 to 1989, because of an influx of warm ocean water. That means sea levels could rise even faster than previously predicted.