The Earth’s oceans have absorbed more heat than previously believed, according to a study published this week in Nature, a scientific journal. Researchers found that the oceans absorbed 60 percent more each year between 1991 and 2016 than was thought.
“Imagine if the ocean was only 30 feet deep. 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 [U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report would correspond to a warming of only 4 degrees Celsius [7.2 degrees Fahrenheit] every decade,” the study’s lead author, Laure Resplandy, said in an article about the findings that was published by Princeton University.
Jeff Berardelli, a contributing meteorologist for CBS News, says 60 percent is “a huge amount.”
“Missing 60 percent of heat for the last 25 years — that’s a big deal,” he said. “But scientists are now going to have to do their due diligence and check the math on this and check the methods and make sure it stands up. I mean, it’s a peer-reviewed study. It’s done by some of the best institutions in the world. However, with all that said, I think we need some more time to absorb this. If that is true, it has major implications for the world.”
The Earth’s oceans absorb excess heat that is trapped by greenhouse gases, which impacts everything from coral reefs to the intensity of hurricanes.
“As this heat is absorbed, it raises ocean temperatures and accelerates the retreat of glaciers and ice sheets, both of which cause sea level rise,” says a report published in August by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “The heat also melts sea ice, fuels evaporation, and affects the intensity of tropical cyclones and coral bleaching.”