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We are aware that the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is one of the main causes of rising ocean temperatures. During the pandemic, the carbon emissions were much lower due to the imposition of lockdown in most countries.
The main reasons for this were the strict restrictions on travelling and the fact that most people worked from home. With lesser vehicles out on the street, there were reduced carbon emissions. However, a new study discovered that in 2020 even with the low carbon emissions, the ocean temperatures were the highest recorded ever.
These were the findings of a group of 20 scientists from 13 China institutes, the US, and Italy. The study’s observations were published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.
Scientists say that the oceans’ upper 2000 metres have so much heat that they can boil around 1.3 billion kettles having 1.5 litres of water. The heat absorbed by the oceans is much greater compared to 2019. As per Cheng Lijing, who heads the study and is a researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, ocean heating shows the extent of climate change. He says that the oceans absorb most of the global heat.
Ocean warming impacts ocean life in many ways. It affects the survival of marine organisms. The rise in sea temperatures decreases the amount of dissolved oxygen and leads to higher carbon dioxide levels. This makes oceans more acidic and causes effects like destroying the protective shell of corals and other microorganisms. Ocean heating also causes the loss of breeding grounds for fish and marine mammals. It causes large movements of species to search for better environmental conditions.
Ocean warming is the reason why there is more heavy rainfall, hurricanes, and typhoons. Ocean warming results in changes in the availability of fish stocks, impacting the livelihood of people and increasing food insecurity. The rising sea temperatures affect the growth of vegetation, such as mangroves that protect coastlines from erosion. Ocean heating also leads to a rise in sea levels. It impacts low-lying island nations, destroys their houses and infrastructure, forcing them to shift to new places. Ocean warming also causes more diseases to plant and animals since pathogens are more contagious in warmer waters. The bacteria that cause cholera and algal blooms that lead to neurological conditions like ciguatera are examples.
Cheng says that this trend of ocean heating will remain for decades because of the ocean’s late response to global warming. He observes that sea temperatures continued to rise despite the fall in carbon emissions during the lockdown. Research points out that in the last few decades, the oceans were warmer than in the previous decade. It was also found that areas that had high salinity observed a rise in salinity, and in low salinity areas, it was the opposite. Scientists say that all global efforts to control global warming should remember that the already warm oceans continue to absorb more amounts of heat.
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