Global Ocean Temperatures Hit Highest Level Since Recording Began, Study Shows

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Thomas Catenacci Energy & Environment Reporter
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Ocean temperatures recorded around the world reached the warmest level ever in 2021, a peer-reviewed study published Tuesday concluded.

Overall, global ocean temperature data shows an “unambiguous” warming trend since the 1980s, according to the study published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. Average annual temperatures have increased every decade since 1958 when scientists first recorded the data.

The study’s authors mainly attributed the rising oceanic temperatures to human-caused global warming.

“The regional and global changes both reveal a robust and significant ocean warming since the late-1950s — the entirety of the reliable instrumental record,” the study stated. “Natural variability and change in ocean circulation play important roles locally, but the predominant changes result from human-related changes in atmospheric composition.”

“As oceans warm, the water expands, and sea level rises,” it continued. “Preparing for sea level rise and its implications for coastal communities are particularly important.” (RELATED: ‘Unprecedented Warmth’: Alaska Records Highest December Temperature Ever)

Climate protesters are seen on Nov. 10 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. (Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Climate protesters are seen on Nov. 10 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. (Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Temperatures between 1986-2021 represented an eight-fold increase compared to those recorded during the period between 1958-1985, the study noted.

“The oceans will continue to warm until net carbon emissions go to zero. Ocean warming is destabilizing Antarctic ice shelves and threatens massive (meters) of sea level rise if we don’t act,” Penn State University professor Michael Mann, an author of the study, told Axios.

Meanwhile, European Union data showed that 2021 was the fifth warmest year ever recorded, according to air temperature data. The average air temperature worldwide was 0.27 degrees Celsius warmer than the average temperature between 1991-2020.

The average temperature dipped relative to 2019 and 2020 because of a spate of colder weather brought about by a La Niña event in October, scientists said.

2021 was also the fourth warmest year ever recorded in the U.S., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Alaska, though, had its coldest year since 2012, the NOAA said.

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