Global Warming is Ocean Warming: John Abraham Reels Off Some Big Numbers

January 13, 2022

The Hill

The world’s oceans recorded the hottest temperatures in history in 2021, and scientists are ringing the alarm on the consequences of human-caused climate change. 

In a report published this week, authored by 23 researchers at 14 different institutions, scientists say the increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human activities traps heat within the climate system and has driven unprecedented increases in ocean heat content. 

Increasing Greenhouse gases mean more heat is trapped in Earth’s atmosphere, creating an imbalance and warming the planet.

That imbalance has caused the Earth’s oceans to record alarmingly hot temperatures over the past five years, and in 2021, the world’s oceans set a new record by reaching the hottest temperature ever recorded by humans. 

The recording breaking hot temperature in 2021 came despite La Niña conditions, a climate pattern that causes a cold event where winds are stronger than usual and more warm air is pushed towards Asia. In the Americas, it means more cold, nutrient-rich water is pushed to the surface. 

In a press release, researchers explained that for the last year the upper 2,000 meters in all oceans absorbed 14 more zettajoules, a unit of electrical energy, than in 2020. That’s equivalent to 145 times the amount of electricity generated in the world in 2020. 

All of the energy humans use the world over in a single year is only about half of a single zettajoule. 


“As well as absorbing heat, currently, the ocean absorbs 20 to 30% of human carbon dioxide emissions, leading to ocean acidification; however, ocean warming reduces the efficiency of oceanic carbon uptake and leaves more carbon dioxide in the air,” said Lijing Cheng, lead paper author and associate professor with the International Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences. 

John Abraham, professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas and one of the co-authors of the new study, published an opinion piece in The Guardian that said the heat absorbed by the oceans last year was equivalent to seven Hiroshima atomic bombs detonating each second, 24 hours a day for 365 days a year.  

“If you want to know how fast climate change is happening, the answer is in the oceans,” said Abraham. 

3 Responses to “Global Warming is Ocean Warming: John Abraham Reels Off Some Big Numbers”

  1. Joyce.Lanning Says:

    This sentence from the Hill report was confusing. “The amount of outgoing energy from the Earth system is so high it’s surpassing the incoming solar radiation, creating Earth’s Energy Imbalance.” What the authors actually said is the opposite: “The increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human activities trap heat within the climate system and result in massive changes in the climate system. As a result, outgoing energy from the Earth system is not balancing the incoming solar radiation, thus creating Earth’s Energy Imbalance (EEI) in the climate system.”

    So the Hill assumed ‘not balancing” was due to too much heat escaping when the reality is just the opposite. Where is an editor when you need one in this fast-paced, journalistic-understaffed world? But the rest of their report is great. Thanks to Peter for sharing.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Mainstream reporting of science is notoriously poor, with a high rate of non-expert summaries contradicting the findings in a study. Same old same old.

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