Over the last 50 years, the oceans have been working in overdrive to slow global warming, absorbing about 40 percent of our carbon dioxide emissions and over 90 percent of the excess heat trapped in the atmosphere.
But as our research published last week in Nature Communications has found, some oceans work harder than others.
We used a computational global ocean circulation model to examine exactly how ocean warming has played out over the last 50 years. And we found the Southern Ocean has dominated the global absorption of heat. In fact, Southern Ocean heat uptake accounts for almost all the planet’s ocean warming, thereby controlling the rate of climate change.
This Southern Ocean warming and its associated impacts are effectively irreversible on human time scales, because it takes millennia for heat trapped deep in the ocean to be released back into the atmosphere. More.