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Oceans Are Absorbing Much More Heat Than Expected, Says Study

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A new report revealed that the ocean is absorbing more heat that can be transferred back to the atmosphere any time. Researchers suggested that efforts to control excess carbon dioxide emissions should be increased.   ( Dimitris Vetsikas | Pixabay )

A new report reveals that scientists have seriously underestimated exactly how much heat the world's oceans are absorbing due to global warming.

According to the latest estimates, the bodies of water around the world has soaked up 60 percent more excess heat than originally thought. The report also suggests that more heat is being generated by greenhouse gases, making it more difficult to control the changing climate in the next couple of decades.

Hothouse Earth

The last assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change revealed that oceans around the world are absorbing about 90 percent of excess heat from the planet. This has caused the upper ocean that is up to 700 meters deep to warm, shrinking ice sheets from Greenland and Antarctica.

However, it was more than that. The new study, which looked at the past 25 years, calculated the greenhouse gases emitted due to human activities. Researchers found that the oceans have soaked about 150 times the amount of energy needed to generate electricity around the world.

"It is a big concern," stated Laure Resplandy of Princeton University, lead author of the study. "If you look at the IPCC 1.5C, there are big challenges ahead to keep those targets, and our study suggests it's even harder because we close the window for those lower pathways."

Under the Paris agreement, governments around the world agreed to keep the temperature rise below 1.5 Celsius to avoid global warming's worst impacts. However, in October, the IPCC released a report that efforts have not been enough and the world is nowhere near achieving the target. The world has already warmed 1 Celsius since the past century.

The report published by the journal Nature recommends that the world reduce excess carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent more than previously estimated to keep the goal of preventing the global temperature to rise above 2 Celsius.

Reversing Global Warming

The oceans soaking up excess heat would only bring calamity to the world. Warmer water means reduced oxygen, killing off the ecosystem that thrives within. Warm water will also lead to thermal expansion and, therefore, sea level rising.

However, Rasplandy said that this can still be reversed.

"The heat stored in the ocean will eventually come back out if we start cooling the atmosphere by reducing the greenhouse effect," he stated.

Moreover, he warned that the heat the oceans have been absorbing can still be transferred back to the atmosphere in the centuries to come. This means that it will be more difficult to control rising temperature if the human race continues to emit excess greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

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