‘Astounding’ Levels of Ocean Warming Causing Alarming Weather Extremes

A new study has shown that record levels of heat have been absorbed by Earth’s oceans, contributing to a speeding up of the climate catastrophe, as well as worsening weather events around the world. Here’s the full story. 

In Hot Water

A new study has revealed that in 2023, the Earth experienced “astounding” ocean temperatures that significantly contributed to the exacerbation of extreme weather events globally. The oceans, which absorb as much as 90% of the heat produced from carbon emissions, serve as a critical indicator of the ongoing climate catastrophe. 

The oceans have consistently absorbed escalating levels of heat over the past decade, as indicated by the latest data. “The ocean is the key to telling us what’s happening to the world, and the data is painting a compelling picture of warming year after year after year,” stated Prof John Abraham at the University of St Thomas in Minnesota, part of the team that produced the new data.

This continuous warming trend serves as clear evidence of the intensifying global heating caused by human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels. With 2023 witnessing record levels of heat absorption, scientists are increasingly concerned about the far-reaching consequences for both marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Boiling Point

The dramatic surge in ocean temperatures also led to record levels of stratification, a phenomenon where warm surface waters form a barrier, inhibiting the mixing with deeper, colder waters. This stratification poses a dual threat: a reduction in oxygen levels, endangering marine life, and a limitation on the ocean’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide and heat in the future.

These findings, whilst deeply concerning to all who enjoy living on a planet capable of sustaining life, indicate that the effects of global heating are much further reaching than previously thought. 

Whilst scientists have reliable ocean temperature measurements dating back to 1940, it is becoming increasingly likely that the oceans are now at their hottest temperatures in a millennium.

The pace of heating observed over the past two decades surpasses any period in the last 2,000 years. 

El Niño 

In 2023, the warming El Niño phenomenon contributed to a substantial increase in global average air temperatures. “We’re watching for this but, currently, we do not detect a statistically significant acceleration,” comments Prof John Abraham. Although air temperatures are influenced by natural climate variations such as El Niño, the substantial rise observed in 2023 adds to concerns about the acceleration of global heating.

Despite being an El Niño year, the researchers stated that the ocean surface temperatures in 2023 were “off the charts,” with many scientists warning that humanity is close to reaching a  “tipping point”, after which climate catastrophe seems increasingly likely.

Prof John Abraham from the University of St Thomas in Minnesota, part of the research team behind the new data, emphasizes the ocean’s pivotal role in comprehending global climate trends.

“The ocean is the key to telling us what’s happening to the world, and the data is painting a compelling picture of warming year after year after year,” he reiterates. Abraham stressed that transitioning to alternative sources of energy, such as renewables, is part of the drastic action that humanity needs to take if we are to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. 

Catastrophic Heat Absorption by Oceans

The study, published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, utilized data from various instruments to determine the heat content of the top 2,000 meters of the oceans.

In 2023, a staggering 15 zettajoules more heat was absorbed compared to the previous year, totaling 287 zettajoules for the year. This unprecedented heat absorption underscores the urgency of addressing climate change before it is too late in order to prevent irreversible damage to the planet’s climate systems.

The consequences of the extraordinary ocean temperatures in 2023 extend far beyond rising air and sea temperatures. The record-level stratification and reduced oxygen levels in the oceans pose severe threats to marine ecosystems.

Not only that, but extreme weather events, exemplified by unusually strong cyclones hitting countries as disparate as Malawi, Madagascar, Greece and Australia, highlight the immediate need for accelerated climate action. Prof Albert Van Dijk of the Global Water Monitor consortium emphasizes the link between warmer sea temperatures and the unexpected behaviours of cyclones.

This link shows the inevitability of more extreme weather events if the current trajectory persists. As Prof Abraham, along with the vast majority of the scientific community, asserts, a swift transition away from fossil fuels is imperative to curb the trajectory of climate change and mitigate its adverse impacts on both the environment and humanity.

Prof Abraham concludes, “We can usher in the new energy economy of the future, saving money and the environment at the same time.”

The post ‘Astounding’ Levels of Ocean Warming Causing Alarming Weather Extremes first appeared on Edge Media.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / mkfilm. 

Grant Gallacher is a seasoned writer with expertise in politics and impactful daily news. His work, deeply rooted in addressing issues that resonate with a wide audience, showcases an unwavering commitment to bringing forth the stories that matter. He is also known for satirical writing and stand up comedy.

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