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2019 the Hottest Year on Record for Earth’s Oceans

Amid a worsening climate crisis, new results published Monday found 2019 marked the warmest Earth's oceans have been in recorded human history.

(CN) – Amid a worsening climate crisis, new results published Monday found 2019 marked the warmest Earth's oceans have been in recorded human history.

In a study published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, 14 scientists from around the world also discovered that the past 10 years have seen the warmest global ocean temperatures ever recorded with the past five holding the record for being highest.

Researchers said the global ocean temperature was about 0.075 degrees Celsius above the 1981-2010 average, meaning it would have taken 228 sextillion Joules (sextillion being a thousand raised to the seventh power) of heat to reach that temperature.

"That's a lot of zeros indeed. To make it easier to understand, I did a calculation. The Hiroshima atom-bomb exploded with an energy of about 63,000,000,000,000 Joules. The amount of heat we have put in the world's oceans in the past 25 years equals to 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom-bomb explosions," said Lijing Cheng, lead author and associate professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"This measured ocean warming is irrefutable and is further proof of global warming. There are no reasonable alternatives aside from the human emissions of heat-trapping gases to explain this heating," he said.

The scientists used newly available information to help them determine warming trends since the 1950s. The research team also discovered that the past six decades was about 450% of earlier warming, demonstrating an immense increase in the rate of global climate change in recent times.

"It is critical to understand how fast things are changing," said co-author John Abraham, professor at the University of St. Thomas. "The key to answering this question is in the oceans – that's where the vast majority of heat ends up. If you want to understand global warming, you have to measure ocean warming."

As 2019 broke previous records, the effects of global warming are "already appearing in the form of more extreme weather, rising sea levels and harm to ocean animals,” according to the researchers.

"Global warming is real, and it's getting worse," Abraham said. "And this is just the tip of the iceberg for what is to come. Fortunately, we can do something about it: We can use energy more wisely and we can diversify our energy sources. We have the power to reduce this problem."

While global warming has heated the land and atmosphere, Cheng said only 4% of global warming heat made it there, whereas 90% of the heat went into the ocean.

"Even with that small fraction affecting the atmosphere and land, the global heating has led to an increase in catastrophic fires in the Amazon, California and Australia in 2019, and we're seeing that continue into 2020," Cheng said. "The global ocean warming has caused marine heat waves in Tasman Sea and other regions."

The researchers pointed to a hot spot in the Gulf of Mexico in 2017 that helped create Hurricane Harvey, a devastating storm that killed 82 people and caused $108 billion in damage.

Cheng said the only way to stop the trend is promotion of green energy and increased usage of recyclables.

"The price we pay is the reduction of ocean-dissolved oxygen, the harmed marine lives, strengthening storms and reduced fisheries and ocean-related economies," Cheng said. "However, the more we reduce greenhouse gasses, the less the ocean will warm. Reduce, reuse and recycle and transferring to a clean energy society are still the major way forward."

Categories / Environment

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