Marine researchers at Southampton and Plymouth universities have found that the upper 1,500 metres of the ocean from western Europe to the eastern US have warmed by 0.015C in seven years. The capacity of the oceans to store heat means that a water temperature rise of that size is enough to warm the atmosphere above by almost 9C.
Neil Wells, a scientist on the project at the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton, said: "People might think it doesn't sound like a big temperature rise but it's very significant." The findings were announced in the journal Geophysical Research Letters as James Lovelock, the UK scientist who developed the gaia theory of life on Earth, warned that such ocean warming could stifle marine life and accelerate climate change.
Professor Lovelock said that thermal mixing of water and nutrients shuts down when the upper layer of ocean water reaches about 12C. "That's why the tropical waters are clear blue and the water in the Arctic looks like soup," he said. Such a change would affect marine life, which research suggests could help form clouds over the oceans. Warmer waters would receive less protection from sunlight, which would warm them further.
Posted on 29th November 2006
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