As the data starts to roll in it’s becoming obvious that 2019 was a record-breaking year, but not in a good way. According to a study published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences this week, 2019 was the warmest year on record for ocean temperatures. The oceans have been absorbing the excess heat caused by greenhouse gases. This protects landmasses from the ill-effects of emissions in the short-term, but could ultimately spell disaster for the planet.

Kenven E. Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and one of the study’s authors, said, “The heavy rains in Jakarta just recently resulted, in part, from very warm sea temperatures in that region. These sea temperatures influence regional weather patterns and sometimes even global weather patterns.”

As the oceans continue to absorb greenhouse gas emissions, this will lead to more extreme weather systems and rising oceans, putting many coastal cities in peril. The rising ocean temperatures are also putting marine life at risk, contributing to coral reef bleaching, and threatening vital ecosystems.

Although the past 10 years have been the warmest on record for global ocean temperatures, the increase between 2019 and 2020 was the biggest single-year leap since the early 2000s.

According to Zeke Hausfather, director of climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute in California, ocean heat is absolutely critical to understanding climate change. “Ocean heat content,” he said, “is, in many ways, our best measure of the effect of climate change on the earth.”

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