Scientists are concerned about recent, rapid ocean warming ahead of El Nino

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global warming. mage source: Getty images.

Scientists are afraid that the recent, rapid warming of the oceans will contribute to global warming.

The global sea surface temperature reached a new record high this month and has never increased so quickly.

The underlying causes of this occurrence are a mystery to scientists. However, they worry that when combined with other weather events, it might lead to an unsettling rise in global temperatures by the end of the year.

In the upcoming months, a strong El Nino weather phenomenon that warms the water is predicted by experts.

The effects of warmer oceans are severe, including the extinction of marine life, exacerbated weather patterns, and rising sea levels. Additionally, they perform worse at absorbing the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

A recent significant study that was released last week with little fanfare shines light on an alarming trend.

The Earth has generated almost as much heat in the last 15 years as it did in the 45 years before that, and the seas have absorbed a big share of this extra energy.

This has real-world repercussions since in April of this year, the ocean’s average temperature reached a new record high and the departure from the long-term average was noticeably high in several regions.

In March, sea surface temperatures off the eastern coast of North America rose up to 13.8C above average for the period between 1981 and 2011.

The principal author of the current study, oceanographer Karina Von Schuckmann, who works for the research organization Mercator Ocean International, stated that the reasons behind such a quick and significant change are still not entirely understood.

Whether it is caused by climate change, natural variability, or a combination of both, she continued, the heat in the climate system has doubled during the past 15 years.

The shift is visible, though. A decrease in shipping-related pollution is an interesting possibility for explaining why more heat is permeating the oceans.

A new regulation to lower the Sulphur content of ship fuel was implemented by the International Maritime Organization last year.

This policy has had an immediate impact by lowering the quantity of aerosol particles emitted into the atmosphere.

But because aerosols, which can thicken the air, also reflect heat back into space, their absence might cause the oceans to absorb more heat.

How does ocean warming affect the environment?

Compared to preindustrial levels, the oceans’ average temperature has increased by about 0.9C, 0.6C of which has happened in the last 40 years alone.

Compared to air temperatures over land, which have risen by more than 1.5C since preindustrial times, this is a smaller increase.

This disparity can be linked to the fact that heating water requires a lot more energy than heating land, as well as the fact that the oceans can absorb heat from the atmosphere considerably more deeply than land can.

The seemingly minor average increase in ocean temperature has substantial practical implications:

  • For instance, more frequent and severe marine heatwaves lead to the mass death of marine life, particularly detrimental to coral reefs. 
  • The warming of the upper ocean surface results in more extreme weather conditions, allowing hurricanes and cyclones to gather more energy and become more severe and longer-lasting. 
  • Furthermore, warmer water takes up more space, a phenomenon known as thermal expansion, which can accelerate the melting of glaciers from Greenland and Antarctica that discharge into the oceans. 
  • This leads to a rise in global sea levels and an increase in the likelihood of coastal flooding. 
  • Finally, the oceans currently absorb about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. However, warmer waters have less ability to absorb CO2, which means that if the oceans’ capacity to absorb CO2 decreases in the future, more CO2 would accumulate in the atmosphere, further warming the air and oceans.

The El Nino Southern Oscillation, a naturally occurring weather trend, is another factor that worries scientists.

This phenomena has been in a cooling phase known as La Nia over the past three years, which has assisted in regulating world temperatures.

However, experts now believe that a powerful El Nino is developing, which might have a major effect on the global climate.

Hugh McDowell from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology claims that their model predicts a strong El Nino, and other climate models concur.

He did add, though, that forecasts at this time of the year are less trustworthy. However, some scientists have a more upbeat outlook.

Off the shores of Peru and Ecuador, a coastal El Nino has already developed, and experts anticipate that this will develop into a fully formed event with substantial effects on world temperatures.

If a new El Nino does develop, according to Dr. Josef Ludescher of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research, there might be an additional 0.2-0.25C of global warming.

Some scientists worry that the Earth’s seas may approach a tipping point when they will no longer be able to absorb surplus heat, which will result in the excess heat being released back into the atmosphere.

This might cause the global temperature to rise rapidly and even catastrophically.

As extreme weather events like hurricanes and cyclones become more frequent and intense, there are worries that this will worsen the effects of global warming and harm marine ecosystems.

Despite these worries, many scientists are still optimistic that prompt action to cut greenhouse gas emissions and safeguard marine ecosystems will be able to lessen some of the worst effects of climate change.

Even while the current state of affairs is worrying, there is still time to take steps to lessen the effects of climate change.

Everyone has a part to play in lowering greenhouse gas emissions, switching to cleaner energy sources, and implementing sustainable practices. This includes governments, businesses, and individuals.


Energy efficiency and renewable energy investments have the potential to not only lower emissions but also increase employment and economic growth.

Individual choices like consuming less meat, traveling by public transportation or electric vehicle, and using less energy at home can all have an impact.

Innovative technologies are also being developed, such as geoengineering approaches and carbon capture and storage, to assist mitigate the effects of climate change. It’s crucial to handle these technologies with caution, though.

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