Earth Has Been Getting Warmer Way Faster Than We Thought

By Jamie Condliffe on at

We know that the planet is getting warmer — but it turns out that it's happening faster than we thought. Scientists have been underestimating warming increases because of inaccurate temperature recordings taken in the southern oceans.

New Scientist reports that a team from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California has compared direct measurements from the seas with satellite data and climate models. Their findings suggest that the oceans of the southern hemisphere have absorbed more than twice as much heat trapped in our atmosphere than previously calculated.

Indeed, the results suggest that the world's oceans are currently absorbing somewhere between 24 and 58 per cent more energy than we thought. In turn, that means that we have likely underestimated how much our world has been warming — because the southern seas have been working harder to take up the slack. The findings are published in Nature Climate Change.

The study actually considers the period between 1970 and 2003. The reason for the discrepancy? During that period, northern oceans were well frequented by cargo ships while the southern seas weren't — and its those ships that record and log temperature data. So scientists were working with a limited data set — one that was inaccurate.

In recent years, a network of buoys called the Argo floats have rolling out, so we shouldn't experience the same kind of errors again. [Nature Climate Change via New Scientist]

Image by Moyan Brenn under Creative Commons licence