Taking the Oceans' Temperature, Scientists Find Unexpected Heat

A man walks past a boat anchored at the Indian Ocean in Mombasa 2011. /FILE

First author Laure Resplandy, an assistant professor of geosciences and the Princeton Environmental Institute, said that her and her co-authors' estimate is more than 60 percent higher than the figure in the 2014 Fifth Assessment Report on climate change from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

"We thought that we got away with not a lot of warming in both the ocean and the atmosphere for the amount of Carbon dioxide that we emitted", Laure Resplandy, the Princeton geoscientist who led the study told the Washington Post. "Our data show that it would have warmed by 6.5 degrees Celsius [11.7 degrees Fahrenheit] every decade since 1991. In comparison, the estimate of the last IPCC assessment report would correspond to a warming of only 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) every decade".

Laurent Bopp, a co-author of the study from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, told CNN the findings were "bad news for the ocean itself, bad news for the ecosystem".

The oceans soaking up excess heat would only bring calamity to the world.

The call to "protect the last of the wild" by scientists based in the US, Canada and Australia - follows studies of Earth's dwindling wilderness areas, which are important buffers against the effects of climate change. "It will affect the earth for centuries and millennia after that", he said.

The IPCC Climate Change report argued that we must aim to keep global average temperatures 1.5℃ (2.7F) below pre-industrial levels because even a 2℃ (3.6℉) increase will have far-reaching consequences for biodiversity, society, and the planet.

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Atmosphere researchers say rising sea temperatures have filled all the more ground-breaking storms and are slaughtering off underwater wildlife like Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Scientists work out surface warming with the knowledge that the ocean takes up roughly 90 percent of all the excess energy produced as the Earth warms.

This means more care for the environment, with special focus on oceans and seas. If oceans rise faster than forecast, that represents more of an immediate threat to low-lying communities.

"The uncertainty in the ocean heat content change estimate is still large, even when using this new independent method, which also has uncertainties", said Thomas Froelicher from the University of Bern, Switzerland. If further research corroborates the findings of the latest study, those calculations would need to be redone and the forecast would be more dire.

It found that much more heat is being retained within the Earth's climate system than earlier believed, suggesting that Earth is more sensitive to fossil fuel emissions - and global warming is more advanced - than scientists believed.

In the current study, the team - rather than measuring the temperature of oceans directly - measured the volume of carbon dioxide, oxygen and other gases that escaped the oceans (as they heated) in recent decades and moved into the atmosphere.

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