Climate Change


From NY Times

2nd Hotest Year, warmest decade.  

   —  Black Rock investment fund, puts Climate Change center stage

Oceans working overtime

We got two very important global temperature numbers this week. A study released Monday found that the average temperature of the world’s oceans hit a record high in 2019. Then, on Wednesday, a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that the planet’s average surface temperature last year was the second-highest on record.

The NOAA report, compiled in cooperation with NASA, echoed a finding by European scientists in early January.

Overall, 2019 was sweltering hot, and it closed out a blistering decade. The years from 2010 to 2019 were the hottest 10-year stretch ever recorded, with global temperature data falling in line with the warming trends predicted under climate change.

We might not think about heat in the ocean as much as we think about surface temperatures. An indicator of what’s happening roughly two meters above the earth’s surface and two meters below sea level, surface temperature data tends to reflect what most people feel in their day-to-day lives.

But the two are interconnected, and the oceans are working very hard right now. To date, they’ve absorbed roughly 93 percent of the heat associated with human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. That’s saved us from more severe surface warming.

“The ocean taking up a lot of that heating that we’ve caused is a good thing because it means that our atmosphere is not having to rise in temperature nearly as much as the amount of heat that we’re putting in,” said Olaf Jensen, an associate professor in the department of marine and coastal sciences at Rutgers University. “But it comes with some really terrible costs.”

Those costs, according to Dr. Jensen, include the loss of marine life and increasingly severe tropical storms — including hurricanes like Harvey, Maria and Irma — that feed on warm ocean waters.

Researchers are increasingly wary, though, about how much heat the oceans can continue to absorb. We also know that the oceans, under the right conditions, can release that heat back into the atmosphere and warm the planet’s surface. That’s what many researchers say happened in 2016, the hottest year on record.

“The oceans absorbing the heat is not a get-out-of-jail-free card,” Dr. Jensen said. “It’s not gone. It’s being stored there and it’s coming back to us. We’re in for a long period of warming, even after we stop heating the atmosphere.”

The sooner we stop heating the atmosphere, researchers say, the less heating we, and our grandchildren, will have to deal with down the line.

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