Climate activists may feel their cries for action are falling on deaf ears and according to a paper co-authored by 23 scientists, unfortunately they aren’t wrong. For the sixth consecutive year, the ocean temperature record was broken in 2021, reaching the warmest in the history of human recording.
Of the Indian, Tropical and North Atlantic, North and Northwest Pacific, Southern oceans and Mediterranean sea, four have reported record-high temperatures in their body. Explained in the paper is the rise in temperatures directly correlates with the actions of humans, a finding which will not surprise many. According to the abstract of the document, the increased concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere results from human activities, trapping heat within the climate system and subsequently increasing the ocean heat content (OHC).
The paper’s author, Dr Kevin Trenberth, says the constant increase of OHC is a signifier of human inaction and nonchalance towards the state of the earth’s climate.
“The ocean heat content is relentlessly increasing, globally, and this is a primary indicator of human-induced climate change,” explained Dr Trenberth in a statement. “In this most recent report, we updated observations of the ocean through 2021, while also revisiting and reprocessing earlier data.”
So, just how are humans impacting the rising temperatures?
When broken down, the excess of greenhouse gases humans have produced has created a barrier of gas preventing the heat produced on earth from escaping into space. Instead, with no place to dissipate, the gas rebounds into the ocean which is also absorbing carbon dioxide emissions.
“As well as absorbing heat, currently, the ocean absorbs 20 to 30 per cent of human carbon dioxide emissions, leading to ocean acidification,” says Dr Lijing Cheng, the lead author on the paper.
“However, ocean warming reduces the efficiency of oceanic carbon uptake and leaves more carbon dioxide in the air. Monitoring and understanding the heat and carbon coupling in the future are important to track climate change mitigation goals.”
Fallout from the rising ocean temperature can have significant consequences, according to the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s climate hub. As warm water expands, the increased ocean temperature will contribute to rising sea levels and can also lead to the destruction of sea ice and ice shelves. When these natural structures melt, they also contribute to the rising sea levels.
Without human action taken, its forecast the ocean temperature record and sea levels will continue to rise.