Thu, Jul

Accelerating Ocean Heat Breaks All-Time Records


CLIMATE WATCH - North Atlantic Ocean temperature is on a red-hot streak.  

New research finds ocean temperatures… “have now smashed previous heat records for at least seven years in a row.” (Source: Lijing Cheng, et al, New Record Ocean Temperatures and Related Climate Indicators in 2023, Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, January 2024) 

Certainly, it’s nothing to mess around with as oceans absorb 90% of planetary heat. Maybe that’s too much too quickly to withstand. Or is it a big burp or could it be something much worse? 

Ocean heat represented on a chart displays a nearly vertical solid move up for over the past year. This is Michael Mann’s famous “hockey stick” applied to ocean temperature! Climate science does not have a record of such a powerful jolt upwards for ocean warming. Maybe something big or even bigger than big is underway. 

A recent NYT headline tells the story: Scientists Are Freaking Out About Ocean Temperatures, New York Times, February 27, 2023, by suggesting it could be indicative of developments beyond all expectations by mainstream science. January 2024 was the 8th year in a row when global temperatures “blew past previous records.” The North Atlantic has hit record-breaking temperatures and holding them there for a solid year now. According to scientists: “It’s just astonishing Like, it doesn’t seem real.” (NYT)

But it is real! 

And it should shake up and rattle the cage of every person on the planet because their leaders, who are supposed to address problems like this, are asleep at the switch, sound asleep! 

It’s not only the North Atlantic that is acting up in a mean-spirited manner. Down south, according to Matthew England, professor at University of New South Wales: “The sea ice around the Antarctic is just not growing… The temperature’s just going off the charts. It’s like an omen of the future,” Ibid. 

Global warming appears to be infectiously indiscriminate north/south throughout the globe. These are strange times that demand a lot of attention by nation/states of the world that are sitting ducks for surprisingly rapid sea water rise and a host of other troubling ecosystem crash landings. 

Impact of Ocean Heat Acceleration 

According to NASA, Global Climate Change - Vital Signs of the Planet: Accelerating ocean warming: (1) increases sea level rise due to thermal expansion (2) accelerates melting of major ice sheets, already starting to cascade everywhere on the planet, directly increases sea levels (3) intensifies hurricanes (4) degrades overall ocean health with loss of biodiversity. 

For example, the Blob event in the Pacific Ocean laid the foundation for what to expect from ocean heat. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): “An unprecedented marine heat wave known as ‘the Blob’ dominated the northeastern Pacific from 2013 to 2016, and upended ecosystems across a huge swath of the Pacific Ocean. This led to an ecological cascade, causing fishery collapses and fishery disaster determinations.” (The Ongoing Marine Heat Waves in U.S. Waters, Explained, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, July 24, 2023) 

If fishery collapses occurred way back in 2013-16, then what of today’s more overheated ocean? The Blob was unlike anything the West Coast had experienced: From the Gulf of Alaska-to-Baja, California (Mexico) sea surface temperature hit levels 7°F above average. 

“Fishery collapses” as experienced a decade ago, on top of depleted fish stocks, like we have now, is a formula for disaster for marine life and human life. Globally, overexploited fish stocks, i.e., catching fish faster than they reproduce, has “more than doubled since 1980.” Ergo, most current levels of wild fish catch are unsustainable. (Source: Fish and Overfishing, Our World in Data) 

“In 2015 a record outbreak of toxic algae shut down West Coast Dungeness crab fisheries worth millions of dollars. Then came seabird die-offs, record numbers of whales entangled in fishing lines, crashing salmon returns, and starving California sea lion pups washing up on beaches, just for starters. You had a number of things occurring that by themselves were just astounding,’ according to Nate Mantua, an atmospheric scientist at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center. ‘When you put it all together you could hardly believe it.” (Source: Looking Back at The Blob: Record Warming Drives Unprecedented Ocean Change, NOAA Fisheries, Sept. 26, 2019)

According to Arctic News: The year 2024 looks to be worse than the year 2023… sea surface temperatures that were extremely high in 2023 will be followed by a steep rise in 2024, in fact, crossing 21°C (70°F) as early as January 2024. Toxic algae welcomes the heat; it is sustained and enhanced by warmer waters.

According to Copernicus, which is the Earth Observation Programme of the European Union:

· The average global sea surface temperature (SST) for January over 60°S–60°N reached 20.97°C, a record for January, 0.26°C warmer than the previous warmest January, in 2016, and second highest value for any month in the ERA5 dataset, within 0.01°C of the record from August 2023 (20.98°C). 

· Since 31 January, the daily SST for 60°S–60°N has reached new absolute records, surpassing the previous highest values from 23rd and 24th of August 2023.

The planet is turning hotter prior to, during, and in the aftermath of COP28 (UN Climate Conference of the Parties) held in oil-rich Dubai November/December 2023 and hosted by Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber as COP28 President as well as serving as Group CEO of ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) since 2016.

COPs have been held for nearly 30 consecutive years to address the issue of climate change and global warming and what to do about it. Yet they have miserably failed to impact fossil fuel emissions (up every year and accelerating). COP28 was a ‘tilted game’ in favor of continuation of fossil fuel emissions and according to Martin Siegert, polar scientist and deputy vice-chancellor at University of Exeter: “The science is perfectly clear. COP28, by not making a clear declaration to stop fossil fuel burning is a tragedy for the planet and our future. The world is heating faster and more powerfully than the COP response to deal with it." (Source: ‘A Tragedy for the Planet’: Scientists Decry COP28 Outcome, Common Dreams, December 14, 2023)

“A tragedy for the planet and our future” as emphasized by Dr. Siegert, is a travesty that should not be allowed to stand. Throughout the history of COP meetings, never has the oil and gas industry taken the lead position in meetings of 60-80,000 attendees supposedly devoted to fixing global warming. Nothing more needs to be said about the charade known as COP28. It’s only too obvious. Well, maybe more needs to be said: The people of the world have never been so easily bamboozled, hoodwinked by an international body that’s supposed to protect the sanctity of the planet. COP28 didn’t.

Where’s the pushback?

Regardless, the oceans are in a state of rebellion, which could flood the oil & gas business out of business, as an act of nature protecting herself. Worldwide petroleum refineries are constructed along coastal areas and rivers to take advantage of water resources and easy transportation. As the spigots of fossil fuel CO2 emissions remain wide-open, assuredly, enhanced global warming will flood them out of business.

(Robert Hunziker, MA, economic history DePaul University, awarded membership in Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has over 200 published articles appearing in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide.)