Unless you’re a fan of catastrophic hurricanes and extinct species, there hasn’t been a lot of good news on climate change lately. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a report concluding that the world only has about 12 years before the most dire consequences set in. But a new scientific study published in Nature indicates things might be even worse, actually. The oceans have just been hiding it.
Traditionally, researchers have estimated ocean temperatures using thermometer-equipped buoys. But oceans are huge, and a few hundred thermometers in millions of square miles of water just can’t provide an accurate measurement.
The situation improved in 2007, when a global network of nearly 4,000 buoys, called Argo, went live. That drastically improved the temperature data, but still, the authors of this new study decided to try an alternate approach. Instead of using buoys, they measured the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air above the water.
“When the ocean warms, the amount of these gases that the ocean is able to hold goes down,” said lead study author Laure Resplandy to the BBC. “So what we measured was the amount lost by the oceans, and then we can calculate how much warming we need to explain that change in gases.”
Using this new method, the researchers found the oceans have been warming about 60 percent more than the buoys were indicating. That could mean even the aggressive timetable set by the IPCC—zero emissions by 2030—might be insufficient to slow down climate change.
It’s scary—and all the better reason to race towards environmental goals like our lives depend on it. Because they very well may.
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics