24. January 2022

Ocean temperatures set heat records, raising fresh concerns for marine life


The world’s oceans recorded their hottest yr in additional than 60 years with greenhouse gases driving rising temperatures, amid concerns the ocean’s ecosystems shall be unsustainable within the hotter local weather.

The annual research, which pulls on knowledge between 1958 and 2021, printed within the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, discovered that ocean heat content material in the course of the previous 5 years was the warmest in its information, pushed largely by anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

Warmer ocean temperatures are expected to lead to more intense weather systems.

Warmer ocean temperatures are anticipated to result in extra intense climate methods.Credit:Brook Mitchell

ANU institute for local weather, vitality and catastrophe options director Professor Mark Howden mentioned oceans performed an important position in absorbing about 90 per cent of the heat and gases within the ambiance.

He mentioned the outcomes had been worrying and continued a long-standing development of rising ocean temperatures, significantly given information had been damaged regardless of final yr’s La Nina occasion, which brings cooler circumstances. As oceans proceed to heat, marine heatwaves are more likely to turn into extra frequent. They are already twice as frequent as they had been 40 years in the past.


“If we keep a foot on [the] climate change accelerator, there will be 40 to 60 times the number of marine heatwaves around Australia by the end of the century,” he mentioned.

The research discovered that since 1958 the world’s oceans had absorbed between 4.7 and 5.7 zettajoules of vitality per yr within the higher 200 metres of the ocean. A zettajoule is a measurement referring to an unlimited quantity of heat vitality – estimated to be about twice the world’s complete human-generated vitality manufacturing in a yr.

It represents an enormous quantity of additional heat being saved within the seas. The research additionally discovered the speed of heat absorption had elevated markedly lately, with eight occasions as a lot heat being absorbed on common between 1986 and 2021, in comparison with 1958-85.

Professor Howden added the report supplied a way of urgency to scale back the influence of local weather change, with know-how and enterprise already main the way in which. Political will was lagging, he mentioned.


“The only solution to this is reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” he mentioned. “These days, business is leading the way and community is leading the way,” he mentioned. “There’s little on earth that is not affected in one way or the other by climate.”

Physical oceanographer Ian Young on the University of Melbourne mentioned hotter ocean temperatures would create extra intense climate methods, similar to storms and tropical cyclones. He added that rising greenhouse gases within the ocean, particularly carbon dioxide, would have an effect on the seas’ acidity.

“Carbonic acid eats away at calcified organisms, like shells. Animals are having their shells eaten away by the acidity of the ocean,” he mentioned.

Global coral cowl is forecast to say no 95 per cent beneath 2 levels of warming, and 70 per cent beneath 1.5 levels.


Australia Institute of Marine Science coral biologist Dr Neal Cantin mentioned there have been sections of the Great Barrier Reef that had been a number of levels hotter than they had been traditionally for this time of yr, with scientists monitoring for bleaching occasions. But he added that international marine ecosystems had been all prone to warming ocean temperatures.

“I don’t think coral reefs will be able to keep up with these warming trends. Coral reefs are the poster for ecosystems – they are the base of the system. Coral is sensitive to subtle changes in temperature and light,” he mentioned. “The oceans are warming faster than they have ever warmed on record, animals and ecosystems that are dependent on temperatures are going to respond negatively.”

The launch of the research coincides with the publication of the Copernicus Climate Change Service report that discovered the previous seven years had been the seven warmest on file regardless of the La Nina climate sample. The report confirmed the world has already warmed between 1.1 and 1.3 levels above pre-industrial ranges.

A preliminary research of satellite tv for pc knowledge by Copernicus, which offers local weather knowledge to the European Union, discovered that greenhouse gasoline emissions continued to rise regardless of the financial slowdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Carbon dioxide ranges reached an annual international file of roughly 414 components per million and methane an annual file of roughly 1876 components per billion.

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