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Oceans warm 50% faster than suspected

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The team of Australian and US climate researchers found the world’s oceans warmed and rose at a rate 50 per cent faster in the last four decades of the 20th century than documented in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report (IPCC AR4).

 

The research gives significantly greater credibility to the way climate models simulate the degree of warming in the world’s oceans – a key indicator of sea-level rise and climate change.

 

The results were added to other recent estimates of contributions to sea-level rise, including glaciers, ice caps, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and thermal expansion changes in the deep ocean. The sum of all contributions is more consistent with observed sea-level rise than earlier studies.

 

“For the first time, we can provide a reasonable account of the processes causing the rate of global sea-level rise over the past four decades – a puzzle that has led to a lot of scientific discussion since the 2001 IPCC report but with no significant advances until now,” says CSIRO Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship scientist, Dr Catia Domingues, from the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research.

 

“Following the review of millions of ocean measurements, predominantly from expendable instruments probing the upper 700 metres of the ocean, we were able to more accurately estimate upper-ocean warming, and the related thermal expansion and sea-level rise.

 

“We show that the rate of ocean warming from 1961 to 2003 is about 50 per cent larger than previously reported,” Dr Domingues says., The new estimates also more closely agree with the models used in the IPCC 2007 report.

 

“Our results are important for the climate modelling community because they boost confidence in the climate models used for projections of global sea-level rise resulting from the accumulation of heat in the oceans. These projections will, in turn, assist in planning to minimise the impacts and in developing adaptation strategies.”

 

Central to unlocking more accurate estimates of upper-ocean warming and sea-level rise was research completed earlier this year by CSIRO’s Dr Susan Wijffels and NASA’s Dr Josh Willis, among others, and soon to be published in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate. This study provided ways of correcting small but systematic biases recently discovered in 70 per cent of measurements in the global ocean observing system.

 

Dr Wijffels says the results also indicate an ongoing need for careful quality control of observational data and continuous monitoring of the oceans using diverse observations that can be checked against each other.

 

Dr Domingues says the oceans store more than 90 per cent of the heat in the Earth’s climate system and act as a temporary buffer against the effects of climate change.

 

“Detailed comparisons of these new observational estimates with climate models will be required to refine our current understanding and improve projections of the regional distribution of sea-level rise,” she says.

 

The science team included researchers from the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystem Cooperative Research Centre and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California USA. Co-authors were John Church, Neil White, Peter Gleckler; Susan Wijffels, Paul Barker and Jeff Dunn.

 

Dr Domingues is one of 16 early-career scientists presenting their research to the public for the first time through Fresh Science, a national program sponsored by the Federal and Victorian Governments.

 

 

Dr Catia Domingues

OCE Post Doctoral Fellow

CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research

Phone: 61 3 6232 5038

Alt Phone: 61 4 1156 5163

Fax: 61 3 6232 5123

Email: Catia.Domingues@csiro.au

Dr John Church (BSc(Hons) PHD)

CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research

Phone: 61 3 6232 5207

Alt Phone: 61 3 6232 5217

Fax: 61 3 6232 5123

Email: John.Church@csiro.au

Ms Susan Wijffels (BSc PhD )

CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research

Climate Change Temp; Variability

Phone: 61 3 6232 5450

Alt Phone: 61 3 6228 7587

Fax: 61 3 6232 5123

Email: Susan.Wijffels@csiro.au

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Warming in the Ocean is extremely bad for the living organisms.It could kill them and increase the Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD). This allows bacterial to grow better. Due to the warmer water, nutrients is entering the water and the plankton population is going crazy. Since there is less oxygen in the water, the plankton (fish) die and sink to the bottom of the water and bacteria eats it. This makes the bottom of that Ocean a dead zone.

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Guest Gretchen
Warming in the Ocean is extremely bad for the living organisms.It could kill them and increase the Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD). This allows bacterial to grow better. Due to the warmer water, nutrients is entering the water and the plankton population is going crazy. Since there is less oxygen in the water, the plankton (fish) die and sink to the bottom of the water and bacteria eats it. This makes the bottom of that Ocean a dead zone.

 

The water is warmer, circulation patterns are changing in unpredictable ways, and oceans are becoming acidic.

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