A recent report by the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Atmospheric Physics has recorded the ocean temperatures of 2017 as a new high record, confirming a worrying trend that will result in accelerated ecosystem damage and extreme weather patterns.
Ocean temperature is one of the primary indicators of climate change, as it has a high specific heat capacity. Rising ocean temperatures are also a driver of dangerous extreme weather events, such as this year's hurricanes that destroyed communities in the Caribbean, and the “bomb cyclone” that pummeled the eastern United States this winter.
Marine ecosystems, particularly those of delicate coral reefs, can collapse entirely under an increasingly hot and acidic ocean.
According to the paper published by the CAS Institute of Atmospheric Physics, the top 2,000 meters of water was warmer than in the second warmest year on record, which was 2015. This trend also defies natural trends according to scientists, as 2017 should have seen oceans cool as the climate heads out of the El Niño cycle and into the La Niña.
“It's extraordinary that temperatures in 2017 have been so high when there's no El Niño. In fact, we've been going into cooler La Niña conditions,” a professor said to BBC news.
The Chinese report comes a few days after U.S. scientists at the National Air and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released reports detailing that the Earth's land surface temperatures are among the highest ever recorded as well. NASA determined that 2017 was the second warmest year on record, while NOAA has recorded it as the third highest, due to differing methods of data collection.
With the effects of the El Niña pattern removed, which contributed to naturally warmer temperatures in certain years, 2017 would be considered the warmest year on record.
According to NASA, “last year was the third consecutive year in which global temperatures were more than 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) above late nineteenth-century levels.”
Climate scientists have for years been pushing for rapid and drastic global change to avert potential catastrophe due to the effects of climate change. Last year's Paris Climate Agreement represented the largest global effort yet to place global limits on emissions. However, it's success is still contingent, as the world's largest polluter, the United States, decided to withdraw from the agreement, making it the world's only state not participating in the efforts.