Scientists find link between man-made greenhouse gases and ocean warming
Scientists have found the first unequivocal link between man-made greenhouse gases and a dramatic heating of the Earth's oceans.
The researchers - many funded by the US government - have seen what they describe as a "stunning" correlation between a rise in ocean temperature over the past 40 years and pollution of the atmosphere.
Tim Barnett, a marine physicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said: "We've got a serious problem. The debate is no longer: 'Is there a global warming signal?' The debate now is: 'What are we going to do about it?'"
The findings are crucial because much of the evidence of a warmer world has until now been from air temperatures, but it is the oceans that are the driving force behind Earth's climate.
Dr Barnett said: "Over the past 40 years there has been considerable warming of the planetary system and approximately 90 percent of that warming has gone directly into the oceans."
He told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington: "We defined a 'fingerprint' of ocean warming. Each of the oceans warmed differently at different depths and constitutes a fingerprint which you can look for. We had several computer simulations, for instance one for natural variability: could the climate system just do this on its own? The answer was no.
"We looked at the possibility that solar changes or volcanic effects could have caused the warming - not a chance. What just absolutely nailed it was greenhouse warming."
The study involved scientists from the US department of energy, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as the Met Office's Hadley Centre.
- Adapted from Steve Connor, The Independent, February 20, 2005