Oceans have absorbed more heat than previously thought, study finds

"We thought that we got away with not a lot of warming in both the ocean and the atmosphere for the amount of CO2 that we emitted. But we were wrong" Laure Resplandy a geoscientist at Princeton University who led the new study told the Washington Post

A new study has found that the world's oceans absorbed 60% more heat per year than previously believed, findings that could have serious implications in the fight against climate change.

According to their most recent assessment this month, scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) say the world's oceans have absorbed 90 percent of the temperature rise caused by man-made carbon emissions.

"Imagine if the ocean was only 30 feet deep", said Laure Resplandy, an assistant professor of geosciences and the Princeton Environmental Institute. 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 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) every decade".

Earlier this month, the United Nations issued a landmark report that said a rise in global temperatures above 1.5 degrees Celsius-which could come as early as 2030-could cause catastrophic damage unless "rapid and unprecedented" changes in energy use is made before then.

"The result significantly increases the confidence we can place in estimates of ocean warming and therefore helps reduce uncertainty in the climate sensitivity, particularly closing off the possibility of very low climate sensitivity", Keeling said.

Part of the big question in estimating how much the planet will warm in the future is understanding how sensitive the planet is to carbon emissions, said CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. I mean, it's a peer-reviewed study.

Total amount of heat from global warming that has accumulated in Earth's climate system from 1962 to 2008. If oceans rise faster than forecast, that represents more of an immediate threat to low-lying communities. If further research corroborates the findings of the latest study, those calculations would need to be redone and the forecast would be more dire.

It found that for each of the last 25 years, oceans had absorbed heat energy equivalent to 150 times the amount of electricity mankind produces annually.

The researchers found that the oceans have taken in 13 zettajoules of heat energy each year between 1991 and 2016. To put that in context, a 100-watt light bulb emits 100 joules per second.

The study was funded by NOAA's Climate Program Office and the Princeton Environmental Institute. The researchers used a different way to measure ocean warmth, "an independent estimate by using measurements of atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide-levels of which increase as the ocean warms and releases gases-as a whole-ocean thermometer". But the effects may actually be underestimated, according to researchers at Princeton University, who used a new approach for measuring ocean temperatures by looking at the levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the atmosphere.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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