Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

Scientists are finding new evidence that global warming is heating up the ocean to its deepest levels. (Photo: USFWS/flickr/cc)

Deep Ocean Warming Happening at 'Alarming' and Increasingly Rapid Rate

New study reveals ocean levels below 700 meters have already been affected by rising greenhouse gases

Nadia Prupis

Nearly half of the increases in ocean temperature between 1865-2015 occurred in just the past 20 years, a rate which is steadily getting quicker, a new study published Monday reveals.

Deep underwater, below 700 meters, the ocean holds 35 percent of the world's heat associated with greenhouse gases—an increase from the 20 percent it had absorbed just two decades ago, according to the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Little is known about temperature measurement at that depth, which is partially what makes the findings so distressing, the researchers said.

"In recent decades the ocean has continued to warm substantially, and with time the warming signal is reaching deeper into the ocean," said lead author Peter Gleckler, a scientist with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

"The takeaway is that the rate, at which the global ocean is absorbing excess heat, has rapidly increased—so that in more recent times since 1997, it has absorbed as much heat as it took over 100 [years] to absorb," Gleckler said. "That is alarming."

Gregory Johnson, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), added, "Given the importance of the ocean warming signal for understanding our changing climate, it is high time to measure the global ocean systematically from the surface to the ocean floor."

Overall, the ocean absorbs more than 90 percent of the world's heat associated with greenhouse gases. Quantifying oceanic temperatures is paramount to understanding the climate crisis and projecting how fast the planet will warm and sea levels will rise in the future, the researchers said.

Indeed, as Gleckler told the Guardian on Monday, "When we discuss global warming, the most familiar way we do that is talk about temperature changes on the surface—but it’s clear that the oceans are doing the bulk of the work in terms of absorbing the heat in the system. And if we want to really understand how much heat is being trapped, we can’t just look at the upper ocean anymore, we need to look deeper."

The researchers analyzed an array of ocean temperature observations and models dating back to the 1870s, including data from a fleet of 3,000 robotic floats known as Argo.

New "Deep Argo" floats that measure temperatures from the seabed found that even the bottom levels of the ocean have warmed in recent decades.

As oceans heat up, they set the stage for extreme weather events and related phenomena, such as "terrifying" tropical storms, the historic coral bleaching currently underway throughout the globe, widespread species loss, or the "changing contours" of the U.S. fishing industry. These, in turn, threaten to bring devastating consequences for the food security and livelihoods of millions of people within 85 years.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Hold the Line': Progressives Push to Block Vote on Weaker Bill Without Final Text of Build Back Better

"By holding firm on keeping the Build Back Better Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill firmly linked, progressives are giving their colleagues in the Senate the space and the leverage to negotiate the strongest package possible."

Common Dreams staff ·


Will They Lie or Finally Come Clean?: Watch Fossil Fuel CEOs Testify at Historic Hearing

"Will these executives own up to their misinformation, or keep trying to hide behind lies and spin?"

Andrea Germanos ·


Key Global Systems Need 'Complete U-Turns' to Avoid 'Disastrous Tipping Points' for Planet

Which system changes are "on track," meaning transformation is "occurring at or above the pace required to achieve" global climate goals? According to a new report: None.

Jon Queally ·


'All You Have to Do Is Follow the Money': Ilhan Omar Rebukes Corporate Democrats

"It is corporate greed, and the lawmakers who serve them," argues the Minnesota Democrat, "who are betraying the values of our party and the American people."

Jon Queally ·


'Outrageous and Shameful': Dems May Cut Paid Leave Due to Manchin's Opposition

Decrying the plan, advocacy groups vowed that "the American people are not going to allow that essential human need to be ignored and negotiated away behind closed doors."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo