Heat waves also happen in the oceans – and they get worse

Oceans are increasingly taking the heat of climate change with them, according to an important new one report released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations. The report is perhaps one of the most comprehensive assessments to date on the effects of climate change on the world's oceans and frozen waters. And it points to a problem that scientists are increasingly worried about: marine heat waves.

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There is sufficient robust scientific evidence to show that extreme heat events on land are getting worse as climate change accelerates. But country people are not the only ones who feel the fire. A growing number of investigations are investigating similar events under water when the seas experience periods of unusually warm temperatures.

"This is a phenomenon that we should pay more attention to," said Ko Barrett, vice-president of the IPCC in a press conference. Marine heat waves, she said, are an "emerging issue" and this is the first time that the United Nations body has devoted so much research to it.

More than 100 scientists in more than 30 countries have contributed to the research, called the special report on the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate. It was unveiled at a meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel in Monaco just one day after the United Nations held a special summit in New York, where Secretary General António Guterres called on countries to step up their plans to prevent the climate crisis.

The report found that the frequency of heat waves in oceans has very likely doubled since 1982. And it will probably get worse. By 2081, the frequency of these extreme events could rise 20 to 50 times, depending on how successful the world is in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that heat our planet. In a scenario with persistent high emissions, those extreme events under water can become ten times more intense.

They are already cheeky. In 2014 and 2015, a heat wave appeared with the name & # 39; the Blob & # 39; in the Pacific Ocean and caused damage to marine ecosystems from Hawaii to Alaska. The high temperatures can kill coral reefs, have sea lions strand on the coast and stop fishing and crabbing. And because ocean temperatures have an effect on weather systems, the blob came even after California – which contributed to an epic drought in 2014 that the American Geophysical Union said was the worst in the region. 1200 years.

"I would say this is an important area of ​​scientific understanding that has emerged in recent years," says Stanford professor and senior fellow Noah Diffenbaugh, who was not involved in the IPCC report, The edge. "We are seeing a rise of these marine heat waves in ocean conditions, we are seeing a rise in their effects on ecosystems and communities. And we are seeing a rise in their external impact on weather and land climate."

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There is a potentially worrying new "blob" – an area of ​​unusually warm water marked in red on maps – that is developing in the Pacific followed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "It's on a path to be as strong as the previous event," said Andrew Leising, a research scientist at NOAA Fisheries & Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California. statement from the agency this month. "It is in itself one of the most important events that we have seen." The agency acknowledged that previously unexpected events such as the Blob are more common.

Even outside of these heat waves the ocean warms up. The report showed that the speed of ocean warming has probably more than doubled since 1993. The ocean stores more than 90 percent of the excess heat generated by human activity. "The ocean becomes a kind of sacrificial lamb," says Francisco Chavez, senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, The edge. He says that we should pay much more attention to how that affects marine life.

"We can see immediately that there are huge forest fires that, for example, occupy parts of the Amazon forest, but we don't know which fires are lit under the sea," says Chavez. "The ocean is a bit out of sight from the heart compared to the terrestrial systems."

There is of course more to worry about than the temperature rising, according to the IPCC report. Climate change also contributes to oxygen loss and increased acidity in the ocean. And water problems reach land as the sea level rise rises due to the melting of ice and the rising of warm ocean water.

“The consequences for nature and humanity are drastic and serious. This report underlines the urgency of timely, ambitious, coordinated and sustainable action, "said Barcett of IPCC." It's about the health of ecosystems, wildlife and, more importantly, the world we leave our children in. "

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