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Unsettling Discoveries: Tracing Ocean Warming Through Sclerosponges

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Zara Nwosu
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Unsettling Discoveries: Tracing Ocean Warming Through Sclerosponges

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A Historical Perspective on Ocean Warming

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Recent studies have capitalized on the unique chemical properties of sclerosponges to trace ocean temperatures back 300 years. What they reveal is a disturbing reality: a warming of at least 1.5°C since 1860. This alarming increase surpasses previous estimates and serves as a stark warning of an accelerating rate of global warming. The challenge now lies in accurately determining whether global surface temperatures have reached or surpassed the 1.5°C increase limit over pre-industrial levels, a task complicated by historical data limitations and inconsistencies between ocean and land temperature records. Understanding the true magnitude of ocean warming since the pre-industrial era is both a critical and urgent task for informing future climate action.

Record-Breaking Ocean Heat: A Dire Warning for the Planet

According to a study published by Mongabay, the global ocean is hotter than it has ever been in modern times, with oceans shattering heat records for at least seven consecutive years. The implications of this are severe and far-reaching, with disastrous outcomes for the planet, including extreme weather events, marine heat waves, sea level rise, and stress on marine organisms and ecosystems. The oceans' absorption of anthropogenic heat has serious implications for the climate crisis. The study warns that without immediate action to curb carbon emissions, ocean heat will continue to climb, impacting the planetary systems necessary for human survival and life on Earth.

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Impacts of Atlantic Warming and Loss of Sea Ice Cover

Science Daily reports on another concerning study. Record-high ocean temperatures observed in 2023 could become the norm if the world shifts into a climate that is 3.0°C warmer than pre-industrial levels. The North Atlantic has displayed extremely warm temperatures, approximately 1.4°C warmer than the 1982-2011 average. The rapid Atlantic warming has coincided with a dramatic decline in sea ice cover surrounding Antarctica. The researchers emphasize the need to quantify how much this rapid Atlantic warming is affecting sea ice cover.

The Record-Breaking Temperatures of 2023

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Le Monde reports that ocean temperatures reached an unprecedented average of 21.1°C in August 2023 and January 2024. This is a symptom of global warming with significant implications for biodiversity and marine CO2 storage. Climatologist Julie Deshayes highlights the exceptional year due to the direct effects of climate change and natural variability with the El Niño phenomenon. She emphasizes the need to limit emissions to maintain future years at this level.

Implications of Deep Ocean Warming on Climate Recovery

An article in Nature discusses how deep ocean warming could hinder climate recovery in some regions even if carbon neutrality or net negative emissions are achieved. The stored heat in the oceans will be released at a slower rate than its accumulation, causing a robust pattern of surface ocean warming and consequential regional precipitation. Deep ocean warming may hinder climate recovery in some regions, even if carbon neutrality or net negative emissions are achieved.

Controversial Claims: Has the 1.5⁰C Threshold Been Crossed?

A controversial study published in the journal Nature Climate Change suggests that ocean temperatures have already warmed by at least 1.5⁰C since the 1860s. This implies that the world has passed the 1.5⁰C threshold believed to limit the most severe impacts of climate change. If true, this would necessitate major reductions in emissions to avoid reaching 2⁰C of warming by the late 2020s, and the timeline for reducing harmful emissions has been advanced by at least a decade. However, other climate researchers have questioned these findings, citing uncertainties and limitations in the study's approach.

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