Climate scientists alarmed at speed of ocean warming

Pariahan village pumps drinking water from a well on Nov. 28 2018 in Bulacan north of Manila in the Philippines

We could see many more weather-related problems if the ocean continues to warm at this accelerated pace, especially if there is no human intervention to manage climate change, experts say.

New measurements, aided by an global network of 3,900 floats deployed in the oceans since 2000, showed more warming since 1971 than calculated by the latest United Nations assessment of climate change in 2013, the researchers said.

The new analysis, published in Science, shows that trends in ocean heat content match those predicted by leading climate change models, and that overall ocean warming is accelerating. This effect alone would lead to a swelling of the sea level of up to 30 centimeters.

The fairly steady rise in ocean heat content clearly shows that the planet is warming. Dubbed Argo, the AI fleet has provided consistent ocean warming data since the mid-2000s, and enabled the team to correct previous ocean warming observations. The results provide further evidence that earlier claims of a slowdown or "hiatus" in global warming over the past 15 years were unfounded.

Ocean heat - recorded by thousands of floating robots - has been setting records repeatedly over the last decade, with 2018 expected to be the hottest year yet, displacing the 2017 record, according to an analysis by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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And if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gases, "models predict that the temperature of the top 2,000 meters of the world's oceans will rise 0.78 degrees Celsius by the end of the century", it said. "As 2017 was the warmest year, and 2016 was the warmest year", Zeke Hausfather, an author of the study and energy systems analyst at the independent climate research group Berkeley Earth, told The New York Times . "The global warming signal is a lot easier to detect if it is changing in the oceans than on the surface".

According to the investigation, the temperature of the oceans have increased in a depth of up to 2000 meters between 1971-2010 by 0.1 degrees Celsius. U.S. President Donald Trump, who wants to promote U.S. fossil fuels, plans to pull out of the pact in 2020.

Lijing Cheng also told Reuters that "records for ocean warming had been broken nearly yearly since 2000".

The robots dive to a depth of 2000 metres every few days, recording the temperature as they float back up to the surface. It can take more than 1,000 years for deep ocean temperatures to adjust to changes at the surface.

A warmer ocean also contributes to increases in rainfall and leads to stronger and longer-lasting storms like Hurricanes Florence and Harvey. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of rising sea levels have been attributed to this cause - not the melting of ice caps.

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