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Ocean temperatures smash new heat record


Ryan Borrett


January 2022

“Last year the oceans absorbed heat equivalent to seven Hiroshima atomic bombs detonating each second, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” writes thermal scientist John Abraham in The Guardian. Abraham recently co-authored a study in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, in which a team of 23 scientists pulled together thousands of global measurements that gave a clear message: there has been a persistent rise in Earth’s ocean temperatures since the 1950s.

The global upper 2000m Ocean Heat Content (OCH) from 1958 through 2021. The histogram presents annual anomalies
relative to a 1981–2010 baseline, with positive anomalies shown as red bars and negative anomalies as blue. Units:
zetta Joules (ZJ, 1 zetta Joule = 1021 Joules).

But what effects are predicted with these soaring temperatures, which in 2021 increased from the heat an equivalent to 440 billion toasters running non-stop all year? Marine life would be deeply threatened, and its contribution to foundational food chains for humans would be massively disrupted. Storms, cyclones, and hurricanes will be more severe, leading to flooding, population displacement, and infrastructure destruction. Sea level rises are also already pushing small island nations to the brink.

The study used a combination of autonomous buoys and ship-deployed sensors spread out across the globe to take measurements, a collaboration involving thousands of researchers in the field and in the lab. Their analysis illustrated that the fastest warming took place in the Atlantic, Indian, and northern Pacific Oceans. This pattern of heat increase allowed the researchers to directly map the rise to human greenhouse gas emissions. Even with urgent climate action, they forecast the trend to remain over the next few decades.

Abraham concludes that, “We took the Earth’s temperature – and the Earth’s fever is getting worse.”

Read the Guardian story and the original study.

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