The world's oceans just broke an important climate change record

Temperature records in the ocean have been broken every single day of the past year, according to new research

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer
Published May 8, 2024 8:14PM (EDT)
Updated May 8, 2024 10:38PM (EDT)
Thermometer at beach (Getty Images/the_burtons)
Thermometer at beach (Getty Images/the_burtons)

As climate change worsens, experts anticipate worsened tropical storms, more frequent wildfiresrising sea levels and shortages of important products like food and microchips. Humanity needs every break that it can get in offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions causing this overheating, which is why a recent report from the European Union's Copernicus Climate Service raises such concern: It reveals that global heating has fueled such massive overheating in the world's oceans that over the past year they broke temperature records every single day.

Not only do the world's oceans absorb around a quarter of the carbon dioxide that humans produce, they similarly absorb roughly 90% of the planet's excess heat. As a result, they play a critical role in limiting the degree to which climate change causes extreme weather and other problems. Yet the new data suggests that the world's oceans are straining under this burden. The research reinforces a recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change, which identified human-caused climate change as the driver behind two important increases in the sea surface temperature's seasonal cycle amplitude, or how life on Earth responds to environmental variations. On both occasions, the science demonstrates that humans are overtaxing our oceans' ability to offset climate change.

"The fact that all this heat is going into the ocean, and in fact, it's warming in some respects even more rapidly than we thought it would, is a cause for great concern," Professor Mike Meredith from the British Antarctic Survey told the BBC.

"These are real signs of the environment moving into areas where we really don't want it to be and if it carries on in that direction the consequences will be severe."

These are not the only problems in terms of rising ocean heat content. Dr. Michael E. Mann, a professor of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania, told Salon last year that rising ocean heat content is equal in significance to rising global surface temperatures because "the warming of the oceans is helping destabilize ice shelves and fuel more powerful hurricanes and tropical cyclones."

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