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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, January 12, 2019 1:00 am

Study: Oceans warming faster than thought prior

Angela Fritz | Washington Post

The oceans are warming faster than climate reports have suggested, according to a new synthesis of temperature observations published this week. The most recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made what turned out to be a very conservative estimate of rise in ocean temperature, and scientists are asking us to adjust our expectations.

“The numbers are coming in 40 to 50 percent (warmer) than the last IPCC report,” said Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric research and an author on the report, published in Science Magazine Thursday.

Furthermore, Trenberth said, “2018 will be the warmest year on record in the oceans” as 2017 was and 2016 before that.

Oceans cover 70 percent of the globe and absorb 93 percent of the planet's extra heat due to climate change. They are responsible for spawning disasters like hurricanes Florence and Maria and generating torrential rainfall via meteorological processes with names like “atmospheric river” and “Pineapple Express.”

Sea level is rising and observable along the East Coast and around the world, both physically and financially. Trenberth and his colleagues say if society continues to emit greenhouse gas at its current rate, oceans rill rise one foot by the end of the century on top of the rise expected from land ice like Greenland and Antarctica.

Scientists have started to pin down how climate change is loading the dice on extreme weather. After Hurricane Harvey, researchers found the storm's deadly and costly effects were likely made worse by warmer oceans. And, as the Washington Post reported in December, “a drought in East Africa that left 6 million people in Somalia facing food shortages was caused by dramatic ocean warming that could not have occurred without humans' impact on the environment.”