Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The sea, the sea

The presentation is dramatic:
Marine researchers at Southampton and Plymouth universities have found that the upper 1,500 metres of the ocean from western Europe to the eastern US have warmed by 0.015C in seven years. The capacity of the oceans to store heat means that a water temperature rise of that size is enough to warm the atmosphere above by almost 9C.
The article (by the often very good David Adam) segues to a report by James Lovelock warning that "such ocean warming could stifle marine life and accelerate climate change" "thermal mixing of water and nutrients shuts down when the upper layer of ocean water reaches about 12C."

Clearly there is a lot going on with regard to human impacts on ocean temperature and chemistry, and Lovelock's alarm may be well judged. But I think this article leaves out some important stuff. How, for example, do the new findings sit in relation to existing work (including findings by scientists at Scripps published in June 2005)? How many years until the temperature reaches an average of 12C? The study reportedly suggests heat stored in the oceans could be released into the atmosphere in future, but what would be likely to trigger this, and when would it likely take place?

There may be reason to be cautious about some articles in The Guardian on ocean warming, as Realclimate recently pointed out.


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