Earth’s oceans are storing record-breaking amounts of heat

sea ice

Pandemic-related shutdowns might have spared Earth’s environment some greenhouse fuel emissions final 12 months, however the world continued to heat.

Water temperature measurements from across the globe point out that the full quantity of warmth saved within the higher oceans in 2020 was higher than any other year on record dating back to 1955, researchers report on-line January 13 in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. Monitoring ocean temperature is necessary as a result of hotter water melts more ice off the edges of Greenland and Antarctica, which raises sea ranges (SN: 4/30/20) and supercharges tropical storms (SN: 11/11/20).

Researchers estimated the full warmth power saved within the higher 2,000 meters of Earth’s oceans utilizing temperature information from moored sensors, drifting probes called Argo floats, underwater robots and different devices (SN: 5/19/10). The crew discovered that higher ocean waters contained 234 sextillion, or 1021, joules extra warmth power in 2020 than the annual common from 1981 to 2010. Warmth power storage was up about 20 sextillion joules from 2019 — suggesting that in 2020, Earth’s oceans absorbed about sufficient warmth to boil 1.three billion kettles of water.

This evaluation might overestimate how a lot the oceans warmed final 12 months, says research coauthor Kevin Trenberth, a local weather scientist with the U.S. Nationwide Middle for Atmospheric Analysis who’s at present based mostly in Auckland, New Zealand. So the researchers additionally crunched ocean temperature information utilizing a second, extra conservative technique for estimating whole annual ocean warmth and located that the soar from 2019 to 2020 could possibly be as little as 1 sextillion joules. That’s nonetheless 65 million kettles delivered to boil.

The three different warmest years on file for the world’s oceans have been 2017, 2018 and 2019. “What we’re seeing here’s a variant on the film Groundhog Day,” says research coauthor Michael Mann, a local weather scientist at Penn State. “Groundhog Day has a cheerful ending. This received’t if we don’t act now to dramatically scale back carbon emissions.”


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