Deep Ocean Warms As Climate Changes – Environment – Life

Much of the ‘excess heat’ stored in the subtropical North Atlantic is in the deep ocean (below 700 metres), new research suggests.

The oceans have absorbed about 90 percent of the warming caused by humans. The study, published in Nature Communications Earth & Environment, found that in the subtropical North Atlantic (25°N), 62 percent of the warming from 1850-2018 remains in the deep ocean.

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The researchers, from the University of Exeter and the University of Brest, estimate that the deep ocean will warm by a further 0.2°C over the next 50 years, reports.

Ocean warming can have a variety of consequences, including sea level rise, changes in ecosystems, currents and chemistry, and deoxygenation.

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“As our planet warms, it is vital to understand how excess heat absorbed by the ocean is redistributed within the ocean from the surface to the bottom, and it is important to consider the depths of the ocean to assess ocean growth. Earth’s ‘energy imbalance’,” said Dr Marie-José Messias, from the University of Exeter.

“In addition to finding that the deep ocean retains much of this excess heat, our research shows how ocean currents redistribute heat to different regions. We found that this redistribution was a key driver of warming in the North Atlantic.”

The researchers studied the system of currents known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC).

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AMOC works like a conveyor belt, transporting warm water from the northern tropics, where cooler, denser water sinks deeper into the ocean and slowly spreads south. The findings highlight the importance of the transfer of heating by AMOC from one region to another.

Messias said excess heat from the Southern Hemisphere oceans is becoming important in the North Atlantic, which now accounts for about a quarter of the excess heat.

The study used temperature records and chemical “tracers,” compounds whose composition can be used to discover past changes in the ocean.


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