2017 Was the Hottest Year on Record for Oceans

Posted by on January 27, 2018 in Climate Change, Environment, Environmental Hazards with 0 Comments

Coral bleaching at Heron Island. Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey / Richard Vevers

By Lorraine Chow | EcoWatch

Last year wasn't just one of the hottest years on Earth's surface, as it was the hottest year on record for the global ocean, according to a new study from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP)/Chinese Academy of Science.

Researchers Lijing Cheng and Jiang Zhu found that the top 2,000 meters of ocean waters are hotter than ever recorded, at 19.19 × 10^22 J. Heat energy is measured in Joules (J).

That's quite the jump from 2015, the previous record-breaking year for ocean heat, which was recorded at 17.68 × 10^22 J.

“For comparison,” the study states, “total electricity generation in China in 2016 was 0.00216 × 10^22 J, which is 699 times smaller than the increase in ocean heat in 2017.”

Ocean heat in 2016 was cooler than both 2015 and 2017 due to a large El Ninõ event that year, which takes heat out of the ocean. As thermal sciences professor Dr. John Abraham explained in the Guardian, “During an El Niño, the Pacific Ocean tends to have very warm waters at the surface, which causes heat loss to the atmosphere (so the ocean cools and the atmosphere warms). Conversely, during a La Niña, the reverse process occurs.”

Despite the 2016 drop, the last five years were still the five warmest years in the ocean on record.

  1. 2017: 19.19 × 10^22 J
  2. 2015: 17.68 × 10^22 J
  3. 2016: 17.18 × 10^22 J
  4. 2014: 16.74 × 10^22 J
  5. 2013: 16.08 × 10^22 J

This chart makes the rise in ocean heat since the 1950s much more clear.

Change in global upper-level (0–2000 m) ocean heat content since 1958. Each bar shows the annual mean relative to a 1981–2010 baseline. The final bar on the right shows the 2017 value. Reliable ocean temperature records date back to 1958. IAP ocean analysis.

The study, published Friday in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, determined that the increase in ocean heat content for 2017 occurred in most regions of the world, with the Atlantic and Southern oceans showing more warming than Pacific and Indian oceans.

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