In recent years, global greenhouse gas emissions had kept rising—hitting an all-time record in 2012. Yet even though the carbon concentration in the atmosphere gradually increased, the planet’s average surface temperatures have remained pretty much the same over the past 15 years.
Where’s the heat?
Try the ocean. Latest studies suggest that the oceans depths seem to be soaking up the excess heat energy created by the accumulation of greenhouse gases. It’s as if the oceans have been acting as a battery, absorbing the excess charge created by the greenhouse effect, which leaves less to warm the surface of the planet. Over the last 60 years, water column temperatures increased by 0.32º F—15 times faster than any other time over the past 10,000 years. That might not sound like much of a change—surface temperatures rose about 1.4º F over the past century—but the sheer scale of the oceans underscores just how much energy you need to heat it up even that much.
The ocean depths still remain somewhat of a mystery to scientists, and they remain woefully understudied given the outsized impact they have on the planet’s climate. If we’re going to understand climate change fully—and predict it more precisely—we’ll need to understand the oceans much better than we do now. We may live on land, but our planet is still a blue one.