Scientists have long been aware that Earth’s oceans absorb an estimated 90% of the warming that’s caused by greenhouse gas emissions, with the stored heat showing up was warmer seawater. According to a new analysis, however, scientists may have greatly underestimated exactly how hot the upper ocean is getting.
Comparisons of direct measurements from the seas in the southern hemisphere with satellite data and climate models suggests that these seas have been absorbing more than twice the amount of heat that was previously calculated. This means that we may be underestimating the extent to which the Earth is warming.
“The Argo data is really critical,” said Paul Durack, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher who led the new study, which was published in Climate Nature Change. “The estimates that we had up until now have been pretty systematically underestimating the likely changes.”
“We continue to be stunned at how rapidly the ocean is warming,” said Sarah Gille, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography professor. “Even if we stopped all greenhouse gas emissions today, we’d still have an ocean that is warmer than the ocean of 1950, and that heat commits us to a warmer climate. Extra heat means extra sea level rise, since warmer water is less dense, so a warmer ocean expands.”
Read more about the story at Climate Central.