DATE: January 26, 2018
SNIP: Among scientists who work on climate change, perhaps the most anticipated information each year is how much the Earth has warmed. That information can only come from the oceans, because almost all heat is stored there. If you want to understand global warming, you need to first understand ocean warming.
This important ocean information was just released today by a world-class team of researchers from China. The researchers (Lijing Cheng and Jiang Zhu) found that the upper 2000 meters (more than 6000 feet) of ocean waters were far warmer in 2017 than the previous hottest year. We measure heat energy in Joules. It turns out that 2017 was a record-breaking year, 1.51 × 1022 Joules hotter than any other year. For comparison, the annual electrical generation in China is 600 times smaller than the heat increase in the ocean.
The authors also calculated that all this heat resulted in approximately 2 mm rise in sea level (as water warms, it expands and so that ocean levels rise).
Further consequences of this heating include declining oxygen levels in the oceans, bleaching of coral reefs, and melting of both sea ice and ice shelves (the latter of which which will also raise sea levels). We are observing these effects. Arctic ice is undergoing a long-term decline, and it’s possible the Arctic will become ice-free. Massive coral bleaching events have been recorded, particularly in the waters off of Australia. The point is, the effects of global warming aren’t just academic; they are real.