Southern Ocean absorbs more heat than any other sea, research finds

We have much to learn

While this discovery sheds new light on the Southern Ocean as a key driver of global ocean warming, we still have a lot to learn, particularly about ocean warming beyond the 50 years we highlight in our study. All future projections, including even the most optimistic scenarios, predict an even warmer ocean in future.

And if the Southern Ocean continues to account for the vast majority of ocean heat uptake until 2100, we might see its heat content increase by as much as seven times more than what we have already seen up to today.

This will have enormous impacts around the globe: including further disturbances to the Southern Ocean food webrapid melting of Antarctic ice shelves and changes in the ocean conveyor belt.

To capture all of these changes, it’s vital we continue and expand our observations taken in the Southern Ocean.

One of the most important new data streams will be new ocean floats that can measure deeper ocean temperatures, as well as small temperature sensors on elephant seals, which give us essential data of oceanic conditions in winter under Antarctic sea ice.

Even more important is the recognition that the less carbon dioxide we emit, the less ocean change we will lock-in. This will ultimately limit the disruption of livelihoods for the billions of people living near the coast worldwide.

Maurice Huguenin is a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales, Matthew England is a Scientia professor at the University of NSW and Ryan Holmes is a research fellow at the University of Sydney.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.