World's oceans have absorbed 60% more heat than previously thought, study finds

Dogtooth tuna

Dogtooth tuna

What can we do to slower the rate of global warming?

Up until the report was issued this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) thought it had a pretty good handle on how much excess energy the oceans were absorbing. Most atmosphere researchers have concurred in the previous decade that if worldwide normal temperatures surpass pre-industrial levels by 2℃ (3.6℉), it is everything except sure that society will confront far-reaching and hazardous outcomes of environmental change.

Climate sensitivity is used to evaluate allowable emissions for mitigation strategies.

The discovery took place because the authors of the new study were not satisfied with the information about the temperature and salinity of the ocean, which is compiled from a system of nearly 4,000 ocean buoys in waters around the world, called Argo.

"It kind of supports the importance of collecting these long-term time series even if it isn't apparent at the start what the outcome will be", he said.Scientists already know that the world's oceans absorb 90 percent of the excess heat trapped on Earth by human greenhouse gas emissions.

The key element is the fact that as waters get warmer they release more carbon dioxide and oxygen into the air. "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℃ (7.2℉) every decade".

Since 2007, scientists have been able to rely on a system of nearly 4,000 Argo floats that record temperature and salinity in the oceans around the world.

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With 2 degrees of warming, the impacts to humanity could be catastrophic, all but wiping out the planet's coral reefs, triggering severe food shortages and throwing hundreds of millions of people, especially in developing countries, into extreme poverty.

Resplandy and her co-authors used Scripps' high-precision measurements of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air to determine how much heat the oceans have stored during the time span they studied. But a group from Scripps Institution of Oceanography had been taking careful measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1991, for unrelated reasons.

"These estimates all use the same imperfect ocean dataset", they wrote. What you need, however, is thermal sensors around the globe, and these have been in place only since 2007.

The new study was interpreted by a scientist from Princeton University in New Jersey, Dr Laure Resplandy.

The new research into oceans - carried out by scientists from the United States, China, France and Germany - cast doubt on previous methods of calculation. In any event, the oceans and atmosphere are warming fast and the only solution is to urgently cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The report suggests that to prevent temperatures rising above 2C, carbon emissions from human activities must be reduced by 25% more than previously estimated.

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