In a surprising new study, research now suggests that we have hugely underestimated the amount of heat absorbed by the oceans in recent decades.
As first reported in the journal Nature, a team led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Princeton University estimated that the ocean has absorbed 60 percent more heat over the past 25 years than the figure that the United Nations IPCC Climate Change report released last month.
The IPCC Climate Change report that was recently released argued that humans must keep global average temperature rise under 1.5℃ below pre-industrial levels. This advisory was after the Paris Climate Accords agreed that the goal would need to be kept under a 2℃ increase. The .5 degree change is extremely significant as once we do get to the new established mark, there is likely no going back for the damage humans have done. To keep within the goal, humans must reduce carbon emissions 25% more than previously believe.
The findings that the amount of heat absorbed by the oceans is significant as we now know that the cooling of our planet is driven even more so by the oceans and without them, our Earth be a lot hotter.
“Imagine if the ocean was only 30 feet deep,” lead author Laure Resplandy, a Princeton assistant professor of geoscience, said in a statement. “Our data shows that it would have warmed by 6.5℃ (11.7℉) 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.”
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. If more heat is going into the oceans than we realized, that also means that our greenhouse gas emissions are trapping more heat than we thought. From this, we can conclude that the Earth is more sensitive to fossil-fuel emissions than anticipated.
The paper writes, ” the study suggests that ocean warming is at the high end of previous estimates, with implications for policy-relevant measurements of the Earth response to climate change, such as climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases and the thermal component of sea-level rise.”