If there was one fact about the oceans I would tell everyone, it would be this: without them, Earth wouldn’t have warmed by roughly 1°C (1.8°F) in the past century, but by 36°C (64.8°F). They are by far and away the largest carbon sink in the world, and without them, our planet would have entered a self-reinforcing greenhouse effect long ago – just like Venus experienced.
The oceans cannot absorb carbon dioxide forever, mind you. The more greenhouse gases that get packed into the atmosphere, the more the planet warms and the less carbon dioxide the oceans are able to hold. This bubbles up into the sky, adds to the atmospheric load, and the planet warms further.
A warmer ocean is a weaker carbon sink, so any signs that they are rapidly heating up are always cause for concern. Sadly, a brand-new study in the journal Climate Dynamics reconfirms that they are indeed getting a little toasty.
For this study, an international team of researchers led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences assessed the temperature profiles of the world’s major oceans. They looked at three different and rather intricate data sets from three different groups in an attempt to get the most precise picture of ocean temperature changes to date.
They found that regardless of what data set was used, or what research team carried out the examinations, the trend was clear: The oceans are warming, and that warming is rapidly accelerating.
This will come as no surprise to 97-99 percent of the world’s climatologists, but studies like this are even more important these days than ever.
Climate deniers have never held more power or influence, particularly in the US. Scientists – apart from marching on Washington DC and even running for Congress – are now beginning to release academic papers specifically to debunk the misinformation of certain high-profile political operators.
There are plenty of arguments used by climate deniers that are designed to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the public, especially when it comes to the fact that there is a consensus in the scientific community. One oft-spouted talking point talks of “bias” in the data, or discrepancies between multiple data sets. Sure, the Earth is warming, they say, but no one knows by how much!
This study is a clear repudiation of such nonsense. It doesn’t matter which scientist is doing the measuring or how, all their conclusions are the same. Even with small differences in temperature measurements based on the technology used at the time, the central message is that there has been significant warming since at least 1970.
The question is no longer “what’s the problem” or even “how bad is it?” It’s “what are we going to do about it?”