SCIENCE

Heat Absorbed By Warming Oceans Has Doubled Since 1997

  • Mary Nichols , Design & Trend Contributor
  • Jan, 19, 2016, 07:27 PM
Tags : science
(Photo : Getty Images/Dan Kitwood) A new study shows that the total amount of man-made heat energy absorbed by the world's oceans has doubled since 1997.

A new study shows that the total amount of man-made heat energy absorbed by the world's oceans has doubled since 1997.

Scientists have long been aware that up to 90 percent of heat energy produced by global warming ends up in the world's oceans, writes The Huffington Post.

But a new study has provided new data on how much heat has been absorbed by oceans during the past 150 years. Scientists used data from as far back as the 1870s, gathered from British research ship Challenger, as well as utilizing data from high-tech underwater monitors and computer models.

From 1865 to 1997, the study found that the world's oceans had absorbed approximately 150 zettajoules of energy. From 1997 to 2015, the study found that the oceans absorbed the same amount over the 18-year period.

To put the total energy absorbed into perspective, if 1 atomic bomb was exploded every second for one year, the total amount of energy released by the explosions would only amount to 2 zettajoules. In order to reach the amount of heat energy absorbed by the oceans from 1997 to 2015, an atomic bomb would need to be exploded every second for 75 years.

"The changes we're talking about, they are really, really big numbers," study co-author Paul Durack, an oceanographer at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California, told The Huffington Post. "They are nonhuman numbers."

Despite the use of computer simulations, which were used to simulate data for decades when good data was not available -- the researchers said that the figures were still reliable. They found that most heat had been trapped in the upper 2,300 feet of the world's oceans, though the deeper oceans are absorbing increasing amounts of energy every year.

However, the study's authors are more concerned with how fast the numbers are increasing, rather than the raw numbers.

"After 2000 in particular the rate of change is really starting to ramp up," Durack said.

The increases indicate that the amount of trapped heat in the atmosphere is accelerating as a whole, the study's lead author Peter Gleckler, a climate scientist at Lawrence Livermore, said.

As the world's oceans are so immense, absorbed heat raises temperatures by a relatively miniscule amount - only a few tenths of a degree, Gleckler and his colleagues said. However, the energy balance is the most important part. When oceans absorb heat, it keeps the surface from getting even warmer due to the burning of coal, oil and gas, the scientists said.

As oceans become warmer, they lose the ability to absorb heat - meaning more heat lingers in the air and on land, the study's co-author, Chris Forest at Pennsylvania State University, said.

"These finding have potentially serious consequences for life in the oceans as well as for patterns of ocean circulation, storm tracks and storm intensity," said Oregon State University marine sciences professor Jane Lubchenco, the former chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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