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Climate Change

Our oceans absorb majority of warming caused by human behavior

Plants and animals which depend on oxygen may no longer be able to survive.

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By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

Oceans have absorbed 90 percent of warming caused by humans and it is all stored below 700m, new research claims.

And the deep ocean will warm by 0.2 degrees in the next half a century, the new data indicates.

The underwater temperature increase will cause sea levels to rise and could have devastating consequences for ecosystems.

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The temperature increase will cause sea levels to rise and could have devastating consequences for ecosystems. (ESB Professional/Shutterstock)

Plants and animals which depend on oxygen may no longer be able to survive and the change will affect the sea’s currents and chemistry.

Oceans have absorbed around 90 percent of warming caused by humans since the Industrial Revolution began.

For the new study, researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of Brest in France looked at deep ocean warming in the subtropical North Atlantic to understand how the process works.

They used temperature records and chemical "tracers," compounds whose make-up can be used to discover past changes in the ocean, to measure levels of warming.

They found 62 percent of the warming in the region from 1850 to 2018 is held in the deep ocean, which lies more than 700m below the surface.

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

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It works like a conveyer belt, carrying warm water from the tropics north – where colder, dense water sinks into the deep ocean and spreads slowly south.

These findings show warming and its effects can be transferred from one region to another.

Excess heat from oceans in the Southern Hemisphere now accounts for around a quarter of excess heat in the North Atlantic, the research revealed.

Study author Dr. Marie-José Messias from the University of Exeter said: “As our planet warms, it's vital to understand how the excess heat taken up by the ocean is redistributed in the ocean interior all the way from the surface to the bottom, and it is important to take into account the deep ocean to assess the growth of Earth's energy imbalance.

"As well as finding that the deep ocean is holding 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 findings were published in the journal Communications Earth and Environment.

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