About 93% of the heat that is trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases eventually is absorbed into the ocean. The remainder heats the atmosphere and then the land which causes ice to melt. Consequently, the best way to measure how fast the planet is warming is to measure the rate that the ocean warms. Read our related post: 2016 The Hottest Year in Recorded History. (photo – Rosamund Pearce/Carbon Brief)
3500 ARGO Sensors Measure Ocean Warming
However, ocean warming is not such an easy thing to measure and it requires enough data from enough instruments, in enough locations, for an extended period of time to give a realistic picture of climate change. Since 2005, approximately 3500 sensing devises have been deployed across the oceans where they collect data, including ocean temperatures down to depths of 200 meters. The ARGO Float System, sends this collected data to satellites for analysis enabling scientists to map changes in ocean heat. (map – ARGO)
A More Accurate Longer-Term Picture
Although we now have a wealth of post-2005 info, earlier data is not as complete. However, a new report indicates how we can fill in these gaps by using new modeling methods and provide a more accurate long-term picture.
“If you want to know about global warming, you really have to understand ocean warming.” States Dr. John Abraham co-author of this new report published in Science Advances.
This innovative process was used to estimate the data from the late 1950’s to 2015 and demonstrate that the rate of global warming has increased significantly over that period of 60 years. One of the study’s conclusions is that we are warming oceans about 13% faster than we thought previously and that the rate of warming is increasing. From 1992 the rate was twice as great as the rate from the late 50’s and the warming is now penetrating to depths below 700 meters.
“This study shows that more heat is likely to have been absorbed by the oceans over the past 50 years than had previously been reported. With upward revisions in our estimates of the climate’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases and the associated resultant sea level rise.” Adds John Fasullo co-author.
Profound Consequences for Our Oceans
The report’s conclusions have profound consequences for our understanding of global warming and its effects worldwide. Consequences in the ocean like coral bleaching and ocean acidification, but also unprecedented effects on land like the recent droughts and floods that we have experienced. Read more about these issues at: EcoWatch at The Guardian or in the Washington Post.
And see our recent post on the devastating effects of the massive coral bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef, read: Can the Great Barrier Reef be Saved.
Will ARGO Survive Trump?
The scientists behind the research expressed concern that the ARGO ocean systems that supply much of this vital, current data to NOAA may be in jeopardy. “It is not clear that there will be continued funding for this absolutely crucial system in the current political climate in the U.S.”
The Oceanic and Atmospheric Research program at NOAA is facing a 26% budget cut and ocean observation and ARGO come out of that funding. See a related post: Why is Rational Thinking Suspended When It Becomes Political
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