Global warming and the role of Oceans

Oceans play an important role for the health of our Planet because they can slow down global warming. In the last 6 years the cabon dioxide emissions, due to human activities, and the 90% of the global warming due to greenhouse effect, have been absorbed by the oceans. They’re like a big spunge that absorbs heat, carbon dioxide and other gases for decades or even centuries. NASA and MIT scientists discovered that gases are more easily absorbed over time than heat energy.  In some cases oceanic currents were even slowing down beacuse of the addition of heat.

They simulated the flow of one of the most important parts of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, the Gulf Stream that carries warm water from Florida to Greenland where it cools and sinks to 1000 meters (about 3281 feet) or more before traveling back down the coast to the tropics. On its northward journey, the water at the surface absorbs gases like carbon dioxide as well as excess heat from the atmosphere. When it sinks near Greenland, those dissolved gases and heat energy are effectively buried in the ocean for years to decades and longer. Removed from the atmosphere by the ocean, the impact of their warming on the climate has been dramatically reduced.

Climate change and oceans: what about the future?

The positive effect oceans have today over global warming, could turn out to be a problem in the future. One day, hundred years into the future, oceans will put back into the atmosphere the gases and heat buried. The ocean recirculates and, at some point, will release some of it back to the atmosphere, where it will keep raising temperatures. This eventual release of buried gases and heat from the oceans is sometimes called the “warming in the pipeline”.