Study: Ocean temperatures hit another record high in 2020

Fast CompanyOcean temperatures hit another record high in 2020. The drop in emissions caused by the pandemic didn’t change the trajectory of our warming oceans.

Though 2020 saw a record drop in global carbon emissions, it wasn’t enough to stem the rapid warming of our oceans. Once again, ocean temperatures have hit a record high, meaning in 2020 the world’s oceans were the warmest they’ve ever been. In that year alone, the upper part of our oceans absorbed 20 more zettajoules than in 2019—an amount of heat that could boil 1.3 billion kettles.

A study published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences and authored by an international team of 20 scientists from 13 institutions details this uptick in ocean warming and includes a plea to policymakers to mitigate the situation before it gets worse. More than 90% of the excess heat due to global warming is absorbed by the ocean, the researchers say, but our oceans’ response takes some time to manifest. That means ocean temperatures will keep getting warmer for “at least several decades,” and that we need to make changes to human-caused global warming now to prevent even worse warming in the future.

The study calculated the ocean temperatures down to 2,000 meters below the surface using data from measurement devices from the World Ocean Database, a project by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Center for Environmental Information.

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