Ocean levels around the world hit their hottest levels in recorded weather history in 2020, heightening the extreme weather effects of the climate emergency, scientists have revealed.
Over 90 percent of the heat trapped in carbon emissions ends up being absorbed by oceans, making their warmth a clear indication of the intensifying weather crisis.
Researchers also revealed that the five hottest years within the oceans had been experienced from 2015, with the rate of heating since 1986 being eight times higher than that of 1960-85.
Dependable instrumental records date back to 1940 but it’s obvious that the oceans are at their hottest right now in 1,000 years and are heating even faster than any time in the past 2,000 years.
Warmer seas are providing feeding storms with more energy, turning them into more severe and frequent monsters, with 2020 recording 29 tropical storms in the Atlantic oceans alone.
Hotter oceans also play an active role in disrupting rainfall patterns, causing droughts, floods and wildfires. In addition, heat makes seawater to expand, in turn driving up sea levels. Scientists predict around 1 metre of sea level rise by the close of this century, endangering the lives of 150 million people across the planet earth.
Notably, warmer water is less likely to dissolve carbon dioxide. As at now, oceans absorb 30% of carbon emissions, limiting the heating effect of fossil fuels burnt by humanity.
“Ocean warming is the key metric and 2020 continued a long series of record-breaking years, showing the unabated continuation of global warming,” noted Prof John Abraham of the University of St Thomas in Minnesota, USA, and one of the teams behind the latest analysis.
“Warmer oceans supercharge the weather, impacting the biological systems of the planet as well as human society. Climate change is literally killing people and we are not doing enough to stop it.”
The new research shows that higher temperatures within the seas continue to harm marine life, as the number of ocean heatwaves rapidly increase.
Oceanic waters cover about 71% of planet earth and water has the ability to absorb thousands of times more heat than air, which explains why 93 percent of global heating is absorbed by the seas. However, surface air temperatures which directly affect people also rocketed in 2020 to the highest record.
The average global air temperature recorded in 2020 was 1.25 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial era, precariously close to the 1.5 degrees Celsius set by global nations to prevent the worst impacts.
A recent research published in a journal dubbed Advances in Atmospheric Sciences revealed that the oceans took up 20 zettajoules more heat in 2020 than in 2019. This is similar to every person on the face of the planet operating 80 hairdryers all day long, every day or four atomic bombs being detonated per second.
The study also showed that the sinking surfaces of ocean waters and the swelling of deeper water are dipping as seas continue to heat up. Consequently, surface layers will heat further as fewer nutrients for marine life are released from the depths.
2020 reduced carbon emissions by around 7 percent
The lockdowns across the world necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 reduced carbon emissions by around 7 percent. Even though this was a record drop, apparently it wasn’t “even a blip” in terms of the overall CO2 within the atmosphere and carried no measurable impact on ocean heating.
“The fact the oceans reached yet another new record level of warmth in 2020, despite a record drop in global carbon emissions, drives home the fact that the planet will continue to warm up as long as we emit carbon into the atmosphere.” said Prof Michael Mann, at Penn State University in the US, and one of the study team. “It is a reminder of the urgency of bringing carbon emissions down rapidly over the next several years.”
Prof Laure Zanna, from New York University noted that “Continuous ocean temperature measurements, as presented in this study, are crucial to quantify the warming of the planet.”
Rising sea levels caused by heating, and the melting glaciers and ice caps were crucial, she explained. “That directly impacts a significant fraction of the world’s population.”
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