Climate change

Ocean warming continues through 2021

Written by Oceanographic Staff

A new study has found that climate change has made the oceans hotter than ever before, for the sixth year in a row.

The study, published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, found that human-induced climate change is to blame for ocean warming that brought higher temperatures than ever recorded in recent history. In fact, for the past six years, ocean temperatures have exceeded each previous year.

The team of researchers behind the study measured global sea temperatures with ocean buoys, before then comparing it to data collected in the 1950s. The results found that the world’s oceans absorbed 14 zettajoules more human-made energy in 2021 than in 2020, while the general warming of the oceans isn’t consistent across the world.

More warming was analysed in some parts of the Pacific, the Atlantic as well as the Indian Ocean due to special currents and wind patterns. Interestingly, a so-called La Niña event did not cool down waters in the Indo-Pacific basin as previously thought.

According to the study, “in the seven maritime domains of the Indian, Tropical Atlantic, North Atlantic, Northwest Pacific, North Pacific, Southern oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea, robust warming is observed but with distinct inter-annual to decadal variability. Four out of seven domains showed record-high heat content in 2021”.

Once again, the study highlights the importance of slowing down climate change and significantly reducing carbon emissions.

Not only do the warming oceans lead to changed fish distribution which can affect global food security as well as the stability of entire marine ecosystems, they can also increase the risk of extreme weather such as marine heat waves, coral bleaching events and storms and hurricanes. The further melting of polar ice shelves and rising of sea levels are further concerns that need addressing on an international level.

For more from our Ocean Newsroom, click here.

Photography courtesy of Unsplash.

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