While 2017 may have been the second hottest year for surface temperatures, a new study has found that it was the hottest year on record for the world’s oceans.
The findings show that ocean temperatures are higher than they’ve ever been due to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
As carbon levels in the atmosphere rise, so do global temperatures, and the world’s oceans absorb almost 90 percent of that heat.
“As such, the global ocean heat content record robustly represents the signature of global warming and is impacted less by weather-related noise and climate variability such as El Niño and La La Niña events,” the researchers wrote.
The team collected ocean temperature data from several different research institutions, including the NOAA, dating back to the 1950s. They found that it wasn’t until the 1990s that a notable rise in ocean temperatures began to occur.
By having such a broad spectrum of data at hand, the researchers could examine ocean temperatures and factor in outside elements that could drive temperatures besides global warming. For example, ocean temperatures decreased in 2016 as a result of El Niño.
The researchers also noted that in the upper 2,000 meters of the ocean, temperatures in 2017 were 1.51 x 10^22 Joules warmer than in 2015.
The study is concerning as it reveals the continued tangible effect of man-made climate change. If the oceans continue to warm, it could cause stronger storms and hurricane seasons, coastal flooding, major calving events and melting sea ice, as well as marine habitat degradation and coral bleaching.