It is understandable that people discussing global warming focus on air temperatures. Lower atmospheric temperatures are shown on the news and weather reports every day. We walk around in the air. We breathe it in. We talk about how hot it’s been this summer, how warm last winter was, or how this is the hottest day on record.
But global warming is all about water. Water, not the atmosphere, drives the weather, and drives climate. The atmosphere is mostly affected by the water on Earth, not the other way around. Atmospheric temperatures are volatile. Not so ocean temperatures.
The oceans absorb a thousand times more heat than the atmosphere and hold 90% of the heat of global warming.
Water temperatures change slowly, much slower than air temperatures, because there is so much more mass in a particular volume of water to heat than in a similar volume of air and that mass of water can hold so much more heat than can air.
Which is why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s annual State-of-the-Climate report is so chilling.
The global-average sea surface temperature last year was the highest on record. The warmth was particularly notable in the North Pacific Ocean, the same region experiencing a drop in pH because of acidification from dissolved CO2 – nothing to do with climate change, just increased CO2 concentrations forming carbonic acid in seawater.
Global upper ocean heat content was a record high, reflecting the continued accumulation of heat in the upper layer of the oceans. NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt, co-editor of the report, said the seas last year “were just ridiculous.”
Other highlights in the NOAA report concerned record air temperatures across the globe, glacial warming, permafrost heating and other findings. As I sit writing this, the smoke is preventing me from seeing down the road. Over 1,000 square miles have burned here in Washington and Oregon.
But it’s the oceans that have got us in such hot water.
Water determines our lives and our future. Water is the only reason life exists on this planet in the first place. And the effects of warming waters are devastating to what life exists on Earth today.
A huge deadly warm water blob, the biggest in history, now stretches from Mexico to Canada, threatening even more marine life. Warm ocean temperatures are killing coral reefs. Ocean productivity at the base of the food chain decreases as temperatures rise. Warm waters holds less oxygen, and that’s killing fish, crabs and other marine life (Tri-City Herald). Sub-tropical fish are appearing offshore of Alaska.
Right here in Washington State, the river temperatures are so high that fish are dying in droves. Huge sturgeons, 10-feet long, are floating belly-up in the Columbia River (Tri-City Herald). Over 500,000 salmon have died this summer here in eastern Washington alone, completely reversing the recent gains in salmon population that resulted from years of careful work.
Press link for more: James Conca | forbes.com