Environment

Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020

Even with the COVID-19-related small dip in global carbon emissions due to limited travel and other activities, the ocean temperatures continued a trend of breaking records in 2020. A new study, authored by 20 scientists from 13 institutes around the world, reported the highest ocean temperatures since 1955 from surface level to a depth of 2,000 meters.

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The report was published on January 13 in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences and concluded with a plea to the policymakers and others to consider the lasting damage warmer oceans can cause as they attempt to mitigate the effects of climate change.

"Over 90% of the excess heat due to global warming is absorbed by the oceans, so ocean warming is a direct indicator of global warming -- the warming we have measured paints a picture of long-term global warming," said Dr. CHENG Lijing, lead paper author and associate professor with the International Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). CHENG is also affiliated with CAS's Center for Ocean Mega-Science. "However, due to the ocean's delayed response to global warming, the trends of ocean change will persist at least for several decades, so societies need to adapt to the now unavoidable consequences of our unabated warming. But there is still time to take action and reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases."

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