Yet another new study has confirmed some of our most alarmist fears about global warming: that it's tracking according to our worst-case projections, the effects are accelerating, and it's undoubtedly man-made, reports CNN.
The report, released in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, paints a dire picture of our oceans in crisis. While our oceans warmed steadily between 1955 and 1986, the rate of warming we've seen in the last few decades has been through the roof. Since 1987, ocean warming has been 450 percent greater than during the earlier time period.
In fact, scientists now say that our oceans are heating up at a rate equivalent to five Hiroshima atomic bombs being dropped into the water every second.
"The Hiroshima atom-bomb exploded with an energy of about 63,000,000,000,000 Joules," said Lijing Cheng, the paper's lead author. "I did a calculation ... the amount of heat we have put in the world's oceans in the past 25 years equals to 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom-bomb explosions."
That actually pans out to "only" four bombs exploding per second, but the rate keeps increasing, so today the effect is much worse.
"We are now at five to six Hiroshima bombs of heat each second," said John Abraham, another of the study's authors.
This trend is so steep that there's simply no natural explanation for it. The only factors that can account for this crisis are greenhouse gas emissions spewed by human civilization. The past decade has been the warmest on record for global ocean temperatures, and the hottest five years ever recorded all came in the last five.
"The upward trend is relentless, and so we can say with confidence that most of the warming is man-made climate change," said Kevin Trenberth, distinguished scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Why it matters
The reason that our oceans are warming at such an alarming rate is because they cover almost three-quarters of the Earth's surface. It's not just their surface area, though. The mass of the oceans far exceeds the mass of the atmosphere, so actually more than 90 percent of the planet's excess heat ends up in the ocean, with only 4 percent ending up in the atmosphere and the land. For this reason, ocean temperatures are a better barometer than atmospheric temperatures for measuring global warming.
Warming ocean temperatures are also the main driving force behind climate change. More frequent and intense tropical storms have been linked to warmer oceans, and the temperature change has profound effects on atmospheric currents and global weather systems. Many of these changes are occurring at such a rapid rate that biological evolution can't keep up, which contributes to the global extinction crisis.
Furthermore, rising ocean temperatures cause widespread coral bleaching, and because roughly 25 percent of our ocean's biodiversity can be found around our coral reefs, that's what we stand to lose if these trends continue for much longer.
There's no way to softball the results of this study, but scientists think it might still be possible to turn things around. It will take profound and immediate measures, but not impossible ones.
"If the leaders of the world changed course, a revolution could take place over about 15 years... this requires the leaders of China, and the U.S. in particular, along with Europe, to take a strong leadership role and set the stage for the rest of the world to follow," said Trenberth.