Stab Magazine | Oceans Warming 40 Percent Faster Than Previously Thought

Oceans Warming 40 Percent Faster Than Previously Thought

Maybe you don’t need that new wetsuit?

news // Jan 19, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Wetsuits are so 20th Century. If things keep going the way they are, we may be wearing boardshorts all year long.

According to a new study, the world’s oceans are heating up 40 percent faster than initially believed. This week, the Journal Science published a new analysis that indicates the record-breaking water temps we’ve seen around the world over the past few years are no fluke.

“Recent observation-based estimates show rapid warming of Earth’s oceans over the past few decades,” reads the report. “This warming has contributed to increases in rainfall intensity, rising sea levels, the destruction of coral reefs, declining ocean oxygen levels, and declines in ice sheets; glaciers; and ice caps in the polar regions.”

The data was gathered and analyzed by scientists using a network of 3,000 drifting floats called Argo, which measure the temperature and saltiness of the oceans down to 2,000 meters and uploads the information via satellites. This new study updates what was found by computer modeling in an extensive United Nations report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change back in 2014. 

None of this is good news…unless you really hate wearing booties. 

“2018 is going to be the warmest year on record for the Earth’s oceans,” Zeke Hausfather, an author of the study, told the New York Times. “As 2017 was the warmest year, and 2016 was the warmest year.”

Referred to as “ocean heat content” (OHC), the study found that the rise in temperature is largely responsible for the rise in sea level. Physics describes how things expand as they heat up, therefore taking up more space. That means that warm water takes up more water than cold water. 

“Most of the sea level rise observed to date is because of this warming effect, not melting ice caps,” surmised the study. “The prospects for much higher OHC, sea level, and sea-surface temperatures should be of concern given the abundant evidence of effects on storms, hurricanes, and the hydrological cycle, including extreme precipitation events.” 

Warmer water and more swell-producing storms sounds like a surfer’s dream scenario, but not so much. Reefs are dying, beaches are eroding, sea life is being adversely affected, it’s not good. And there doesn’t seem to be much anyone can do to slow things down now.

“If the ocean wasn’t absorbing as much heat, the surface of the land would heat up much faster than it is right now,” Malin L. Pinsky, an associate professor at Rutgers University, told the New York Times. “In fact, the ocean is saving us from massive warming right now.”


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