Record-breaking ocean temperatures signal alarming climate change

The world’s oceans have taken the biggest hit from global warming, with over 90% of the heat trapped by rising greenhouse gas emissions absorbed by the oceans. Since March 2023, ocean temperatures have been breaking new records almost daily. Remarkably, previous records were exceeded by the largest margin seen during the satellite era for 47 days.

Consequences of the rapid warming

In February 2024, the world had already exceeded 1.5 degrees of warming for an entire year. Even more alarmingly, ocean temperatures in some regions the previous year corresponded to those expected with 3 degrees of global warming. This rapid warming is a mystery to researchers, as it exceeds the models’ forecasts.

Possible causes of the unexpected warming

Researchers are investigating several factors that may have contributed to the accelerating ocean warming. The eruption of the Tonga Hunga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in 2022 released enormous amounts of water vapor that trapped heat in the atmosphere. A 2020 decision on lower sulfur levels in marine fuel also reduced the amount of sulfur dioxide emissions from shipping, which may have slightly increased global warming. An early study also points to a long-term 50-70 year cycle of warming and cooling at higher latitudes as a possible contributing factor.

Effects on land and along coasts

The consequences of the record-breaking ocean warming extend far beyond the oceans. Increased evaporation and humidity can lead to new records in heat waves on land, as heat index becomes critical for human survival. Warmed and less dense seawater also contributes to rising sea levels, with devastating effects on coastal areas.

In summary, the article shows that we are rapidly approaching, or have already passed, certain irreversible thresholds in the climate system. It is high time to act resolutely to avoid the worst scenarios. Every contributing factor to warming, no matter how small, must be taken seriously if we are to have a chance of reversing the trend.

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Per-Olof Hall

Writes about health and sustainability, combining unique insights with over 15 years of experience as owner and consultant at PlanetPeople AB.