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A record-breaking year for ocean temperatures



So this happened last week. We learned Earth's oceans. Were the warmest ever recorded in two thousand nineteen and the scientists found. The past. Ten years are are also the warmest on record that paper in the Journal Advances in atmospheric sciences included a Minnesota scientists. It's University of Saint Thomas Scientists. John John Abraham is part of the team that includes some names. Climate watchers will know Michael Man from Penn State Kevin Trenberth from the National Center for Atmospheric Research. So what does this mean for earth's atmosphere and for us here in landlocked Minnesota. We're fortunate to have study co-authored jumped Abraham here this morning to talk about that. Hi John Hey pleasure to be here Paul. And we're also thrilled to have Georgia tech climate scientists. Dr Kim Cobb here this morning. Her work includes going deep into our Russians analyzing corals deep sea sediments and cave stalagmites. Sounds Fun while come back. Kim thanks for having me and we want to hear from you This morning do you have questions about our oceans record-breaking warmth or maybe you're a Minnesotan who plans to travel back to a favourite seaside escaped this winter. What have you seen in the Russian where you visit? Give us a call and talk to these two great climate scientists six five one two two seven six thousand or toll free at eight hundred two four two two eight two eight John. Let's start with your recent study. What did you find out about earth? Oceans Will Paul in a nutshell. We found that the earth is warming alarming and it really matters So when we want to know how fast the climate's warming what we need to do is measure the amount of heat in in the Earth's climate now fortunately As the earth warms because of human heat trapping gases most of that heat ends up in the oceans in fact over ninety percent of it. So if you want to know how fast the earth is warming you've gotta measure the oceans what I like to say is global warming is ocean warming and my research team keeps track of ocean temperatures and ocean heat and we report those results each year and we found that the year two thousand nineteen set a record that record had previously been set in two thousand eighteen which by the way broke the record from two thousand seventeen so I'm sounding like a broken record but the oceans are warming their warming extremely rapidly. And what we need to know here in Minnesota as it has consequences even here though we're far away from the ocean and you had an interesting sort of nuclear clear comparison of just how much heat energy is going into the oceans. Tell us about that. Yeah that's right so the fancy term that we use to to tell people how fast the oceans oceans warming is a Zeta jewel. Now you haven't heard that in a long time if you can pull that out of a cocktail party tonight you extra bonus points but a jewel is a unit of energy. I'm not talking about a jewel on a you know jewelry or a ring or hearings but a jewel is a unit of Energy Zeta. Jewel is a one with twenty one zeros. After it I mean these are huge huge numbers so the earth warmed. Twenty eight Zeta Zeta jewels or about twenty-five Zeta Jill's last year. And I. How do you wrap your head around that? And it's crazy crazy number so I related it to the the energy released by hero Shema atomic bombs and it turns out we are heating the ocean at the rate of five Herro Shema bombs uh-huh per second per second day and night three hundred sixty five days a year so I just helps put into context the scale L.. What's happening to our Oceans Kim? As John mentioned we know that more than ninety percent of earth warming is being absorbed by the oceans. How does that extra heat impact the atmosphere and weather systems? Well it's definitely going to be the dog that wagging tail there so obviously the there's temperature globally as John said is really set by the oceans and that goes to the atmosphere as well and so we're the ocean goes the atmosphere it goes and so that is warming up the atmosphere and that causes the atmosphere to hold more water vapor which leads to one of the impacts that that we know is being caused by rising greenhouse gases which is more extreme episodes precipitation as one example of how how disconnection between the ocean and the atmosphere? And where we live is tightly linked and Kim looking at Johns recent paper here in this work. How does that dovetail with the work? You've been undoing for so many years on oceans and climate. Well definitely very closely related. So what I do is recover Corals that are growing growing in the surface ocean from data poor regions and so they make those estimates of ocean heat content from instruments like thermometers and put their monitors through the surface ocean to determine that heat content but actually if he wanted to play the current Global warming in the context text the last centuries you have to go to our guys that can push those estimates back with geological records like corals and so looking at the call records Over the last millennium which is one of my specialties from regions where we have very few instrumental records. You can clearly see that these last several centuries ah of warming this last several decades of warming. stand out like a sore thumb against the background of natural variability at these sites over the last several centuries and so that's again that kind of information that we used understand just how unusual and rapid these recent changes. It has been. Yeah so both of you. I'm hearing it's all tied together. The oceans the atmosphere. We know that. And we're still learning a lot about precisely how that works John. Is it fair to say because I'm curious about this that our ocean's ability to absorb heat may be one reason that our atmospheric warming so far has been limited to ron one degree Celsius globally. Yeah that's exactly right Paul. The Oceans Denison incredible favor by gathering this heat. And it's time now. The oceans haven't solved the problem with climate change. The only thing that's going to solve that problem is if we very quickly Reduce our missions to near zero But nevertheless the the oceans have bought US time you know. Climate scientists have been talking about climate change for a long time in fact if I were to ask people win win. The concepts concepts of global warming and understanding was set. They would be surprised that was actually in the eighteen hundreds. I mean this isn't rocket science. This is an Internet age. This is stuff that we've known for a long long long time and unfortunately we've done very little about it in the longer we delay the the harder it's going to be to take action so the oceans have done us an incredible edible favor but let's not Rely on them forever. Because as Kim mentioned that he comes out of the ocean and it drives weather the atmosphere. There is more humid now than it was before. And that is the juice that power see storms and it makes our weather more extreme. It makes things it makes weather either. Go from one extreme to the other more rapidly in Minnesota. What what are we experiencing what we know we because we can see it as we look out the window? But we're experiencing more dramatic swings in temperature more dramatic swings in precipitation. So you might get really heavy down bursts of rain with flooding. But then you might go to a hot dry period. Did and go to droughts here going from one extreme to the other and that has incredible implications for society and you know as these oceans warm. Can it reach a limit on being a heat sink. I'm curious then. What happens to the atmosphere? Could we see a more rapid atmospheric warming when the ocean sort of hit their limit. John can you jump in on that real quick. I can't and it's almost like you are a member of my research team and I have you been spying on me. I should be so fortunate. So wh WHOA. The one of the important things at the ocean is able to bring heat from the surface water down to the deeper depths and we liked that because it it pulls heat away from the atmosphere and there are parts of the globe where ocean waters will fall from the surface down to the bottom of their other parts of the globe or a waters waters will rise. What we want to know is will that process continue And will we get to a situation where there's a stratification nation that means the layers are more or less constant we experiences in Minnesota. We have Kim. You may not know this. We're called the land of ten thousand lakes but I've heard we have something like seventeen. Thousands of MINNESOTANS really understand water inversions in water temperatures in lakes and that happens in the ocean and if that stratification Asian changes if the ability of the ocean to bring heat down changes then we could be inferred even wilder ride and the reason why I mentioned our research. Is We actually have a paper submitted on that topic Kim you mentioned corals you study those where are we at with coral bleaching and death in Earth's oceans today and where are we headed current trends. Continue well certainly. We've seen a really sobering last several years with year on year bleaching across the great eight bear reef But the record for the extent of Global Bleaching and mortality in the corals is really remains twenty sixteen which which is currently by the way still holds the number one place for global temperatures on record Only second only well of course. Twenty nineteen is second only to twenty sixteen in that in that statistic so for corals we've seen real decimation of some sites that may never be the same Besides like my research site in the middle of the Pacific Ocean which was devastated by that? Twenty Sixteen El Nino event compounded by The the ocean warming that we've been talking about and of course going forward Projections show that we're going to lose. Maybe the vast majority of current Ryan Tropical Reef perhaps as early as twenty fifty if we do not take aggressive action to curb emissions immediately. And so you hear a a lot of News coming out every year in the Great Barrier Reef researchers studying the follow on impacts of these massive coral bleaching and mortality than. I'm hitting things like the ability of coral larvae to settle and be successful after these successive events Really understanding that. It's not just the one hit that they take it's really The beginning of the ecosystem collapsing on itself and a number of horrible feedbacks taking place and and so That's something that I think. People don't understand is as well as they need to in the sense that corals are not just Pretty place to die which is where most of us fell in love with these things but they really provide a huge range of ecosystem services that are incredibly valuable to us as a planet including supporting Global fisheries providing protein for a billion people Even in so far as drug discovery for some of our most advanced drugs today so again Really horrifying news from the frontlines of ocean warming with very vulnerable ecosystems. Nicole's

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