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Breakdown: Why oceans are heating up

Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 9:56 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -

Oceans have been heating up and researchers believe that the rise in sea temperatures is producing more frequent hurricanes and impacting sea life. According to researchers rising amounts of greenhouse gases are stopping heat that is radiated from Earth’s surface from escaping back into space. This heat than goes back into the ocean. This has led to ocean temperatures increasing over the past few decades according to research.

Water covers 70% of our planet and absorbs the most heat. It absorbs the heat without a big increase in temp and can store and release heat efficiently. Oceans help to stabilize the earth’s climate. Other sources that absorb and release heat are clouds, water vapor and greenhouse gases. These sources also release heat and some of that heat goes to the ocean. The heat gets moved around by waves and tides and gets distributed to cooler areas and deeper levels of the ocean.

The heat taken in by the ocean gets moved around from one place to another. The heat energy at some point will go back into the Earth system through melting ice, evaporating water, or directly reheating the atmosphere according to research. Heat energy from the ocean can warm the planet for years after is absorbed. If the ocean takes in more heat than it releases, the temperature can rise.

The way the oceans temps were measured back in the day was ships would dangle sensors into the water. Scientist found that this only gave the temperature for a small area and it was time-consuming. To get readings for the entire ocean, scientists turned to satellites that measure the height of the ocean’s surface. As water warms, it expands, so estimates for ocean temperature can be deduced from sea surface heights. There are also other ways to measure like the situ temperature-sensing instruments. This measurement consist of 3,000 robotic “floats” that measure ocean temperature around the world. The sensors on the float drift through the ocean at different depths about every 10 days while recording temperature and salinity. Once the float reaches its destination and comes to the surface, it sends its location and other information to scientists via satellite, and then goes back down into the ocean according to scientist. There also several other methods that record ocean temperatures and one includes seals that are fitted with instruments to help record temperatures in hard to reach areas.

Over 90 percent of the warming that has happened on Earth over the past 50 years has occurred in the ocean according to research. Scientist say that all this extra heat that the ocean absorbed will eventually be released, which will mean additional warming in the future. Sea levels have been rising and this is because water expands when it warms. This rise in sea level can cause problems for marine life and threaten homes near the coast. It also has caused more melting of glaciers.

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