Wed, Nov 07, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Oceans heating faster than previously thought

In this photo from July 21 last year, researchers look out from the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as the sun sets over sea ice in the Victoria Strait along the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Studies show the Arctic is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Scientists are concerned because impacts of a warming Arctic may be felt elsewhere.

Photo: AP

The world’s oceans have absorbed 60 percent more heat than previously thought over the last quarter of a century, scientists said last Thursday, leaving Earth more sensitive still to the effects of climate change.

Oceans cover more than two thirds of the planet’s surface and play a vital role in sustaining life on Earth.

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.

But new research published in the journal Nature used a novel method of measuring ocean temperature. 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. That is 60 percent higher than previous studies showed.

Whereas those studies relied on tallying the excess heat produced by known man-made greenhouse gas emissions, a team of US-based scientists focused on two gases found naturally in the atmosphere: Oxygen and carbon dioxide. Both gases are soluble in water, but the rate at which water absorbs them decreases as it warms.

By measuring atmospheric oxygen and CO2 for each year, scientists were able to more accurately estimate how much heat oceans had absorbed on a global scale.

“Imagine if the ocean was only 10m deep,” said Laure Resplandy, assistant professor of geosciences at Princeton and lead study author. “Our data show that it would have warmed by 6.5 degrees Celsius every decade since 1991.”

That compares with a IPCC estimate of a 4.0 C rise each decade. Resplandy said the data showed mankind must once again revise down its carbon footprint, with emissions needing to fall 25 percent compared to previous estimates.


1. absorb v.

吸收 (xi1 shou1)

2. climate change phr.

氣候變遷 (qi4 hou4 bian4 qian1)

3. carbon dioxide phr.

二氧化碳 (er4 yang3 hua4 tan4)

4. soluble in water phr.

可溶於水的 (ke3 rong2 yu2 shui3 de5)

5. atmospheric adj.

大氣的 (da4 qi4 de5)

6. geoscience n.

地球科學 (di4 qiu2 ke1 xue2)

7. carbon footprint phr.

碳足跡 (tan4 zu2 ji1)

“The result significantly increases the confidence we can place in estimates of ocean warming and therefore helps reduce uncertainty,” said Ralph Keeling, a geophysicist at the University of California-San Diego and co-author of the study.

The IPCC warns that drastic measures need taking in order to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius by the end of the century but the world produced a record amount of carbon emissions in 2017.













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