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OCEAN HEAT CONTENT ALARM OF 2021

Posted on: January 26, 2021

A Need for Hope: The Role of Media in Communicating Climate Change | EOS  Blog | Earth Observatory of Singapore

THIS POST IS A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF A CLIMATE FEAROLOGY ARTICLE ON WARMING OCEANS JANUARY 26, 2021: LINK: https://therevelator.org/ocean-climate-change/

Climate Crisis and Ocean Warming | the Shape of Life | The Story of the  Animal Kingdom

PART-1: WHAT THE REVELATOR ARTICLE SAYS: Climate change has caused record-breaking ocean temperatures, and that means more dangerous storms, trouble for coral reefs and big changes for our marine ecosystems. Russell is a professor of biogeochemical dynamics at the University of Arizona. From that dry, landlocked state, she’s become a leading expert on how the climate is changing in the Southern Ocean — those vast, dark waters swirling around Antarctica. “This is an age of scientific discovery, but also very scary what we’re finding out.” Researchers like Russell have been ringing alarm bells in report after report warning that the world’s ocean waters are dangerously warming. Most of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gas emissions we’ve spewed into the air for decades has actually been absorbed by the ocean. Over the past 25 years, that heat amounts to the equivalent of exploding 3.6 billion Hiroshima-sized atom bombs, {Lijing Cheng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and lead author of a new study on ocean warming}. Now we’re beginning to witness the cascading repercussions of that oceanic warming: supercharged storms, dying coral reefs, & crashing fisheries. There’s still a lot left to learn about these problems, but here’s a look at some of the top findings from researchers, along with what they hope to uncover next.

(1): Yes, It’s Definitely Getting Warmer. There’s no doubt among scientists that the ocean is heating and we’re driving it. The latest confirmation is the study by Cheng and colleagues, published this month in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, which bluntly stated, “Ocean heating is irrefutable and a key measure of the Earth’s energy imbalance. The study found ocean waters in 2019 were the warmest in recorded history. And that follows a pattern: The past decade has also seen the warmest 10 years of ocean temperatures, and the last five years have been the five warmest on record. Every year the ocean waters get warmer because of the heat-trapping gases that humans have emitted into the atmosphere,” says John Abraham, one of the study’s coauthors and a professor in mechanical engineering at the University of St. Thomas. It’s concerning for sure.

(2): The Southern Ocean Has Been Hit Worst. Much of this warming occurs between the surface and a depth of 6,500 feet. It’s happening pretty consistently across the globe, but some areas have experienced higher rates of warming. One of those is the Southern Ocean, which has acted as a giant sink, absorbing 43% of our oceanic CO2 emissions and 75% of the heat, scientists have concluded. That’s because the ocean basin functions like an air conditioner for the planet. Strong winds pull up cold water from deep below, and then the cold surface water takes up some heat from the air. When the winds slow, the water sinks, more cold water rises, and the process repeats. The sinking water isn’t warm, per se, just a bit warmer than it was when the wind pulled it up. In this way the Southern Ocean can sequester a lot of heat well below the surface. For that reason what happens in the Southern Ocean is globally important. And it makes new findings all the more concerning.

(3): THE ANTARCTIC: Normal upwelling of waters from deep in the Southern Ocean has traditionally brought nutrients to the surface, where they then get moved by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the world’s strongest ocean current, to feed marine life in other areas. This process will be disrupted as warm waters cause the Southern Ocean’s ice sheets to melt even faster. This will change the historical upwelling and could trap nutrients instead of pushing them out. That will begin to starve the global ocean of nutrients.

(4): A Lot of Changes Are Happening. As bad as that sounds…there’s a lot more. One of the most obvious results of ocean warming is higher sea levels. That’s caused in part because water expands as it warms. But there’s also the effect on sea ice. The warmer the water gets, the more sea ice melts as is happening in Antarctica. Not surprisingly rates of global sea-level rise are accelerating. This means more property damage, storm surges, and waves lapping at the heels of our coastal communities.

(5): Warmer waters also mean more supercharged storms. An increase in heat drives up evaporation and adds extra moisture to the atmosphere, causing heavy rains, more flooding and more extreme weather events. The aftermath of Cyclone Idai, one of the deadliest storms in history, in Mozambique, March 2019.
In some places it can make drier conditions worse, too. When air rises and cools below the dew point, it turns into clouds or precipitation. “But in places like Arizona or Australia, where rain is generally formed when air is pushed upward over mountains, “the warmer atmosphere might not be cold enough to cause rain. This is how a warmer atmosphere carrying more moisture might actually rain less in some places — contributing to drought and therefore fire. This study in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences identified warming waters as “one of the key reasons why the Earth has experienced increasing catastrophic fires in the Amazon, California, and Australia in 2019.

(6): Warming ocean waters also contribute to the rise of colonies of algae that can produce toxins deadly to wildlife and sometimes people. These harmful algal blooms pose a problem even way up in the Gulf of Alaska, where the annual algae season has gotten longer. That’s all, of course, due to warmer water. The biggest change in the region may be along the coast of the Bering Sea, where water temperatures have historically been too cold for the blooms to occur but that’s starting to change. Now the water temperatures are getting up to the point where they’re warm enough to support these harmful algal blooms. Toxins from the blooms can work their way up the food chain and have even shown up in some marine mammals in the areas. People are concerned about whether it’s safe to eat their staple foods.

(7): Marine Heat Waves Are Getting Worse. While temperatures are rising across the world’s oceans, some areas are also seeing dangerous short-term spikes known as marine heatwaves. These heatwaves, which can be fatal to a long list of sea creatures, will continue to get more severe and more frequent as the ocean warms. By the end of the century, conditions in some areas may be akin to a permanent heatwave. That’s likely to be bad news for everything from seaweed to birds to mammals, and it could result in fundamental changes for food webs and the animals and coastal economies that depend on those resources. Collectively, and over time, an increase in the exposure of marine ecosystems to extreme temperatures may lead to irreversible loss of species or foundation habitats, such as seagrass, coral reefs and kelp forests. These changes likely aren’t far off. These marine heatwaves will emerge as forceful agents of disturbance to marine ecosystems in the near-future. We’re already seeing what that would look like.

(8): Marine heatwaves off Australia have spurred oyster die-offs and losses to the abalone fishery, and one event in 2016 caught the world’s attention when it caused severe bleaching of the biodiverse Great Barrier Reef, triggering mass coral deaths.

(9): Scientists now believe that “the blob,” a mass of warm water that persisted off the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska from 2014 to 2016, led to the starvation of an estimated 1 million common murres, a normally resilient seabird. The warm waters likely reduced and changed phytoplankton communities — an essential part of the marine food web. But that’s not all. The warm waters increased the metabolism — and the appetite — of big fish like pollock and salmon. That demand spike crashed populations of forage fish that murres usually find plentiful. Tufted puffins, Cassin’s auklets, sea lions and baleen whales also suffered losses, although the murres were hit worst.

(10): Most recently a prolonged marine heatwave off the coast of Alaska led to the closure of region’s commercial Pacific cod fishery for 2020, the first time that’s ever happened. When you cancel whole fisheries, that really impacts people’s lives and livelihoods.

(11): What We Don’t Know: Scientists have enough information now to tell us that we need to quickly change course. But there’s still a lot to learn about how warming temperatures will affect myriad species in the sea, not to mention weather patterns and coastal economies. One current line of research is to better understand how ocean warming affects weather. We know that a warmer ocean means more water evaporates into the atmosphere and that makes weather more severe because humidity drives storms. We would like to quantify this. So how much worse is weather now and how bad will it be? Some of that information will come from existing systems – Argo for example3.

(12): ARGO: We live in a time of great change, and the ocean is telling us these stories mostly through the Argo floats. This global network of nearly 3,900 floating sensors can measure temperature, salinity and pressure at varying depths across the world’s oceans. But in the Southern Ocean, Russell works with an even more advanced group of biogeochemical sensors. They measure nitrates, which can tell researchers about the building blocks of nutrients for the food web. They also measure oxygen, “how the ocean is breathing,” she says, and pH, which helps tell the carbon content of the water.

(13): The Arctic is one place where this technology would play a particularly valuable role. It’s so shallow in many places, and under ice for so much of the year, that we haven’t really been able to get a big float array up there but the Arctic is critical to our national interest and it’s relatively unstudied. There’s plenty to keep researchers busy, but the rest of us also need to act quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because, the researchers of the Advances in Atmospheric Sciences study concluded, the oceans are so vast that they’ll require years to dissipate all of this excess heat and register the changes we’re starting to make today. Cutting emissions, they wrote, is the only way to reduce “the risks to humans and other life on Earth.

Joellen | Leadership Programs
JOELLEN RUSSEL

PART-2: CRITICAL COMMENTARY

A prior Revelator article citing Joellen Russel on the warming of the ocean by Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) was published in December 2020. It is reviewed on this site in a related post: LINK: https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/12/14/earths-warming-oceans/ . Briefly, what we find in that review is as follows:

(1): THE ARTICLE MAKES EXTENSIVE USE OF THE UNSUPPORTED ASSUMPTION THAT ALL DEEP OCEAN WARMING FOUND IN THE DATA CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO ANTHROPOGENIC GLOBAL WARMING (AGW). NO EVIDENCE IS PROVIDED FOR THAT ATTRIBUTION.

(2): A SIGNIFICANT ISSUE IN THAT PRESUMED ATTRIBUTION IS, AS THE AUTHOR APPARENTLY CONCEDES ABOVE IN THIS ARTICLE, THAT THE OCEAN IS A VERY LARGE PLACE IN RELATION TO THE LAND AND ATMOSPHERE OF OUR HABITAT. AS NOTED IN THAT RELATED POST, “THE ATMOSPHERE AND THE OCEAN TOGETHER WEIGH 1.36E18 METRIC TONNES OF WHICH THE OCEAN IS 99.62% AND THE ATMOSPHERE 0.38%”.

(3): IT IS AN EXTREME FORM OF THE ATMOSPHERE BIAS IN CLIMATE SCIENCE TO ASSUME THAT ALL TEMPERATURE CHANGES IN THE OCEAN EVEN IN THE ABYSSAL OCEAN, ARE THE CREATION OF THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT OF ATMOSPHERIC CO2. THIS KIND OF ATMOSPHERE BIAS IN CLIMATE SCIENCE IN THE EVALUATION OF OCEAN TEMPERATURE DYNAMICS, AS FOR EXAMPLE THE BLOB, IS EXPLORED IN A RELATED POST ON THIS SITE: LINK: https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/03/14/atmosphere-bias/

(4): THAT THE OCEAN CONTAINS SIGNIFICANTLY LARGER SOURCES OF HEAT IN THE FORM OF SUBMARINE VOLCANISM, MANTLE PLUMES, AND HYDROTHERMAL VENTS IS DESCRIBED IN A RELATED POST ON THIS SITE: LINK: https://tambonthongchai.com/2021/01/20/offshore-hydrocarbon-seeps/ AND DISPLAYED IN THE YOUTUBE VIDEO BELOW. THE EXISTENCE OF THESE HEAT SOURCES MAKES IT NECESSARY THAT THE ATTRIBUTION OF OCEAN WARMING TO THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT OF ATMOSPHERIC CO2 MUST PROVIDE SIGNIFICANT EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE ATTRIBUTION. IT CANNOT BE ASSUMED THAT ALL TEMPERATURE CHANGES IN THE OCEAN CAN BE UNDERSTOOD IN TERMS OF ATMOSPHERIC PHENOMENA.

(5): THE THEORY OF ANTHROPOGENIC GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE (AGW) IS ABOUT A SURFACE PHENOMENON THAT EXPLAINS A LONG TERM RISE IN GLOBAL MEAN SURFACE TEMPERATURE (GMST) IN TERMS OF THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT OF ATMOSPHERIC CO2. IT IS FURTHER CLAIMED THAT THE STRENGTH OF THE THEORY OF AGW DERIVES FROM THE MATCH IN TERMS OF EQUILIBRIUM CLIMATE SENSITIVITY BETWEEN THE OBSERVED LONG TERM TRENDS IN MEAN OCEAN SURFACE TEMPERATURE AND THE THEORETICAL GREENHOUSE EFFECT AND AN AIRBORNE FRACTION OF 50% OF THE CO2 IN FOSSIL FUEL EMISSIONS. THE ASSUMED AVAILABILITY OF SUCH LARGE AMOUNTS OF EXTRA HEAT IN THIS EQUATION, ENOUGH TO HEAT LARGE SEGMENTS OF THE DEEP OCEAN IS INCONSISTENT WITH THIS THEORY.

(6): NOAA DATA ON OCEAN HEAT CONTENT ARE PRESENTED IN A RELATED POST ON THIS SITE: LINK: https://tambonthongchai.com/2018/10/06/ohc/ . THE DATA SHOW THAT: {As expected, the annual data at the 700M depth shows greater volatility and uncertainty than the smoothed Pentadal data for the 2000M depth. An additional difference seen in the case of the Pacific is that the steady and sustained upward trend in OHC at 2000M is not found in the 700M data where no trend is evident until the 1990’s. This distinction is seen more clearly in the trend profiles where we find that in the smoothed data for 2000M, the moving decadal trends are all positive whereas in the data for 700 meters we see violent and unsynchronized swings of cooling and warming periods with North cooling while the South warms and vice versa. This disconnect between North and South is not seen in the smoothed data for 2000M. The smoothed full span data for 2000M indicate steadily rising Ocean Heat Content (OHC) for both the Northern and Southern segments in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. A very different pattern is seen in the Indian Ocean where the whole of the gain in OHC at either depth derives from warming in the South with no trend seen in the OHC of the North. The trend pattern seen for the annual 700M data in the Atlantic and Pacific where the upward trend in OHC begins in the 1990s is seen in the Indian Ocean data at both depths and at both annual and pentadal time scales. THESE PATTERNS IN OCEAN HEAT CONTENT ARE NOT CONSISTENT WITH A UNIFORM ATMOSPHERIC SOURCE OF HEAT.

(7): MARINE HEAT WAVES: THE CREATION OF THE MARINE HEAT WAVE PHENOMENON CAN PERHAPS BE UNDERSTOOD IN TERMS RISING GMST. HOWEVER, THE MUCH GREATER HEAT ENERGY NEEDED FOR DEEP OCEAN TEMPERATURE CHANGES OF A LARGE MASS OF WATER REQUIRES A PRESENTATION OF THE HEAT BALANCE THAT EXPLAINS BOTH RISING GMST AND OCEAN HEAT CONTENT. WITHOUT THAT HEAT BALANCE THE ATTRIBUTION OF ALL OBSERVED OCEAN TEMPERTURE CHANGES TO ATMOSPHERIC PHENOMENA IS NOT CREDIBLE FOR TWO REASONS. THEY ARE (1) THE AMOUNT OF ENERGY INVOLVED IN OCEAN WARMING, AND (2) THE KNOWN EXTENSIVE HEAT SOURCES IN THE OCEAN ITSELF.

map_plate_tectonics_world_med

LIST OF RELATED POSTS (RP)

RP#1: OCEAN HEAT CONTENT DATA AND PATTERNS: https://tambonthongchai.com/2018/10/06/ohc/

RP#2: MARINE HEAT WAVES: https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/01/30/ohw/

RP#3: THE BLOB: https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/03/14/atmosphere-bias/

RP#4: AGW IS WARMING THE DEEP OCEAN: https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/10/14/climate-change-is-warming-the-deep-ocean/

RP#5: WARMING OF THE SOUTHERN CIRCUMPOLAR CURRENT: https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/08/11/the-ice-shelves-of-antarctica/

RP#6: THE INTERNAL CLIMATE VARIABILITY ISSUE IN CLIMATE SCIENCE: https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/07/16/the-internal-variability-issue/

indian_ocean

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  • chaamjamal: Good point. The shoreline ugliness is not only an eyesore but it stinks and also attracts huge numbers of flies and other such creatures. I was one of
  • Paul H: The shoreline waste problem could be alleviated in part if Asian nations didn't dump lorry loads of plastic into rivers and seas. I sadly didn't save
  • chaamjamal: "Too few in number and powerless against the hypnosis of the masses" Sad but true and well put. Thank you for that insight.
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