Can the Oceans Protect Us from Global Warming?

Earth’s oceans are gradually feeling more like hot tubs, and the culprit is clear: climate change. Newly published research has uncovered some alarming findings: oceans have warmed more in the past 60 years than they have in the previous 10,000. Worse yet, the water in the Pacific Ocean specifically is warming at a rate 15 times faster than it has in the past 10 millennia.

This rise in temperatures makes sense since large bodies of water have been bearing the brunt of global warming, reports National Geographic. According to estimates, the oceans are responsible for absorbing more than 90% of the extra heat created from climate change. Therefore, those who insist they haven’t noticed much of a temperature difference in the age of climate change aren’t exactly wrong given the oceans’ thankless role in attracting most of the heat.

Unfortunately, we don’t know how much more heat the oceans can accept. At a certain point, oceans might no longer be able to suck in the effects of global warming, leaving the land to get much hotter, as well.

“We may have underestimated the efficiency of the oceans as a storehouse for heat and energy,” said lead scientist Yair Rosenthal in Time. “It may buy us some time – how much time, I really don’t know. But it’s not going to stop climate change.”

In the 60-year span the researchers examined, ocean temperatures have increased by 0.32 degrees Fahrenheit. That might seem small compare to the rise in the earth’s surface temperatures (1.5 degrees), but it is perhaps even more significant after considering that earth is 70% water and requires massive levels of heat to produce that kind of change.

The oceans’ rising temperatures are not without consequences. The extra heat has caused “thermal expansion,” which results in higher sea levels. In the past century, oceans have already risen by seven inches; experts anticipate the sea level to rise by another two feet in the upcoming 100 years. Inhabitants of places in lower elevations are vulnerable to having their land washed away.

Even if the news itself is frightening, the way in which the researchers obtained their data is remarkable. The scientists from Rutgers University studied minute creatures on the ocean floor known as foraminifera. They can ascertain previous ocean temperatures by inspecting the foraminifera’s shells. These shells reveal the temperature at the time of its formation through their ratio of magnesium to calcium. From this information, the researchers were able to chart the ocean temperatures over time and note the changes.

The shell data also corresponded with known climate fluctuations from bygone eras. They suggested a warmer ocean during a period of heat circa 1200, as well as colder ocean temperatures during the minor Ice Age between 1550 and 1850.


Holly C.
Holly C2 years ago

Very interesting - thank you for sharing. Also appreciate reading the different comments as well. There are a lot of good points being made.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams2 years ago

For our closer to $500 billion/year than $400 billion/year electric market, a combination of wind and solar (proportions vary with local and regional weather patterns) with smart grid electronics and energy storage can meet 90% of demand cost-competitively with coal and natural gas. Only 90% because wind and solar are both intermittent sources of energy and cost of enough energy storage to meet the remaining 10% of demand would still make wind and solar not quite cost-competitive with fossil fuel. Geothermal, (Thank you Pres. Obama for finding $30 billion for pilot project and infant industry subsidies to get enhanced geothermal systems going), methane from anaerobically digesting wet organic waste materials, and wood pellets from forestry wastes are dispatchable renewable energy sources. We should be able to get at least 10% of our electricity from geothermal, and between 2% and 3% of our electricity from methane (direct substitute for natural gas) and another between 2% and 3% of our electricity from wood pellets. A big political problem is that our too big to fail coal and natural gas firms are NOT the same firms as our too big to fail electric utilities and both sets of firms are part of our ruling class to whom tribute must be paid in the form of making sure they make enough profit to avoid failing in their sole and sacred capitalist duty of making lots of profit for their stockholders. In my previous post, I forgot to say that Joule Unlimited hopes to get cost to m

Grace Adams
Grace Adams2 years ago

Our military leaders say greening our energy supply will do more for national security than they can do with weapons and they have some military pork they want to trade for green energy, Our military budget for 2013 was $537 billion, is probably still between $500 billion/year and $600/billion/year, maybe 1/4 pork, so can divert over $100 billion, maybe as much as $150 billion to greening all energy including civilian energy supply. Liquid fuel for transportation still needs R&D. Now most promising firm seems to be Joule Unlimited, at working prototype stage, just starting a pilot plant for one of their 4 products, ethanol, hoping for an angel to help finance pilot plants for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. I wish federal government would declare the patents essential to national defense and exercise right of eminent domain to buy patents at constitutionally established price adjusted for inflation since gold was pegged at $20/troy ounce, and then finance those pilot plants, and then if successful, hire Joule Unlimited to set up as turn-key operations more plants for our too big to fail fossil fuel firms to mass-produce those 3 products.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Alexandra Gundelfingen
Alexandra G4 years ago

I agree with James -
Don't see how the oceans can save us when we refuse to save ourselves from ourselves.

Rhonda Bird
Rhonda B4 years ago


Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld4 years ago

Exactly, one person's belief will not change the facts. Some people just refuse to see the facts in open light, rather than tinted glasses. Here is a posting from a shark conservation website regarding your contention:

Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

thanks for sharing

Nimue P.

My argument is not illogical, it's a fact. Some people just can't see their noses in front of their faces. Believe what you want to believe, it won't change the facts.

Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago