Like Adding ‘Five to Six Hiroshima Bombs of Heat Each Second,’ Study Shows Oceans Warming at Record Rate

Yves here. A short but grim bit of news on the climate change front, this on the oft-neglected topic of oceans. Recall the fact that oceans were acting as a heat sink fed complacency about climate change, since it ameliorated the impact of surface warming.

By Eoin Higgins, staff writer at Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

A new study published Monday shows that the Earth’s oceans reached the highest temperatures and warmed the fastest since records began, highlighting the urgent need for global action to address the climate crisis before it’s too late.

The study (pdf), “Record-Setting Ocean Warmth Continued in 2019,” which was published in Advances in Atmospheric Studies, found the oceans have warmed by around 0.075 degrees C above the average of 1981-2010.

That level of warming, the paper found, is equal to 228,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (228 Sextillion) Joules of heat. Study lead author Lijing Cheng, associate professor with the International Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences analogized the level of heating to something more manageable for the human mind.

“The amount of heat we have put in the world’s oceans in the past 25 years equals to 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom-bomb explosions,” said Cheng. “This measured ocean warming is irrefutable and is further proof of global warming. There are no reasonable alternatives aside from the human emissions of heat trapping gases to explain this heating.”

The warming is speeding up, the scientists found.

“We are now at five to six Hiroshima bombs of heat each second,” study co-author John Abraham, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of St. Thomas, told CNN.

Abraham said in a statement Monday announcing the study’s publication that the public needs to be aware “how fast things are changing.”

“The key to answering this question is in the oceans—that’s where the vast majority of heat ends up,” said Abraham. “If you want to understand global warming, you have to measure ocean warming.”

The ocean warms slowly, said Cheng, but due to its vast size has dire consequences.

“The price we pay is the reduction of ocean-dissolved oxygen, the harmed marine lives, strengthening storms and reduced fisheries and ocean-related economies,” Cheng said. “However, the more we reduce greenhouse gasses, the less the ocean will warm.”

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    1. PlutoniumKun

      I honestly despair that people will genuinely respond before the water is literally washing up on their doorsteps. Or flames. Even in Australia now, deniers are still having their say. There is an article in links today suggesting that up to a billion dollars a year goes into Denier think thanks, that’s one part of the explanation, but it can’t be the only one.

      1. LawnDart

        Most people will ignore what makes them feel uncomfortable.

        Although we’re moving from unusual to biblical fires and floods and stuff like that, most people will refuse to recognize imminent threats until they personally feel pain– and just because they hurt still doesn’t mean that they will understand what caused them to hurt.

        They won’t get it from watching the TV news or reading mainstream rags.

        They won’t get it and realize that they’re in trouble when the effects of climate chaos begin to chew and gouge holes in their pocket-book.

        Maybe when hunger strikes the belly, it can’t be sated because they already ate their neighbors cats, and there’s nothing but dead vegetation for as far as the eye can see… …nah, but maybe only then will they realize that the Russians did it!

      2. Tony Wright

        The coal mining lobbyists in Australia are very influential. They have several high profile politicians in their pockets, including Canavan, Christiansen and Joyce. They successfully hijacked the last Federal election, aided and abetted by an idiotic Queensland foray by Green aligned protestors and an over complex, rather assumptive campaign by the Labor opposition (and also a multi million lying Ad. campaign by Clive Palmer.)
        Lesson? Do not stand between a greedy, cynical Queenslander and a $100k a year grunt job in the mining industry, because that is all they care about.

    2. xkeyscored

      The headline does rather invite deniers to ask so what, and accuse us of distorting the facts in an effort to scare-monger.

      The total solar energy per second on a surface perpendicular to the Sun is about 1350 Joules per square meter or about 0.275 watt-hours.
      Taking into account incidence angle and the surface area, the effective energy arriving at the Earth is about 1.75E17 Joules per second. A lot of that is reflected away from clouds.
      Even so, that is about 2750 atomic bomb (Little Boy) blasts per second or roughly the energy in one tsar bomba nuclear blast (50 mega-tons of TNT yield) per second.

      1. Susan the other

        Interesting about cloud cover being the wild card. And the varieties of clouds at different altitudes. Also about the devastation along the west coasts of all continents as those places take the brunt of moisture coming off the oceans. Certainly the US west coast has seen its share of that phenomenon lately during winter. I think it might be a good thing for all of us to understand that just a few degrees makes an enormous change in weather – the last glaciation of the northern hemisphere was brought on by just a drop of 4 degrees. You wouldn’t think it could make such a difference. So certainly we are in for it in the near future if we don’t do something about the CO2 in the high atmosphere. That means getting it out of the low atmosphere. I’d imagine too that science is looking at the effects of 4 degrees of temperature change on the micro biome too. Viruses, for example, have survived being frozen in the permafrost but come back to life when it melts. I would think bacteria would be less able to “come back to life” as they are more complex organisms – I’d hate to see a world overrun with viruses unchecked by their nemesis – bacteria. Or vice-versa. They have been warning, without getting specific, that global warming will change epidemiology. If all it takes to stop the destruction is shutting down CO2 emissions, you’d think even vested interests would start acting. Where are all the clever financial “instruments” that generously do a repo-like magic trick and give the vested interests credit for their stranded assets? That might get them off the dime.

      2. ewmayer

        I’m still trying to square the headline with the actual data – I see current world energy consumption from all souces averages ~18 TW. 1 Hiroshima bomb means energy output ~60 TJ. A watt is simply defined as 1 J/sec, so 6 Hiroshima-bomb equivalents per sec is 360 TW, which is 20x the rate of global energy consumption. It’s important to get the numbers right because screwing up the math in service of generating a more-scary clickbait headline gives ammunition to the denialists.

        So did I screw up my back-of-envelope math above, or is there really a 20x discrepancy between the energy consumption implied by the headline and the current global civilizational total?

        1. ewmayer

          Just realized the source of the discrepancy – it’s not that my math is wrong, it’s that I was looking at the wrong heat source. In producing those 18 TW of power we humans pump greenhouse waste gases into the atmosphere, which cause it to retain just a small added fraction of that massive solar heating cited by xkeyscored – the very definition of anthropogenic global warming. So the discrepant numbers are useful in providing a further perspective: the added heating resulting from the greenhouse gases emitted by our global civilizational energy production is 20x as large as the heat produced directly by said energy production. So every time you use that hair dryer, it’s like 19 more invisible hair dryers get turned on.

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      Suppose the headline did wake people up. What would change and how would that change be accomplished? Suppose all our climate change problems were suddenly solved — how many other instabilities and frailties are built-in to our way-of-life and daily growing worse? Our Society is heading toward a collapse along many roads.

      1. coboarts

        That’s why I await the time-traveling, star-child Greta T to help us make sense of it all. At least we can relax now that we know the Navy and the universities have realized that Roy Thinnes/David Vincent was right all along. Whew, and I was worried there for a moment.

  1. Steven

    There is another wakeup call in this story: New climate models suggest Paris goals may be out of reach

    All the more important to get on with exposing the status quo green-washing by parties peddling EVs. For that matter, an across the board analysis of the problems and possibilities of transitioning to renewable energy is way past due. It would obviously have to be global in scope but I would settle for what has to be done to get our own house (the US) in order,

    Does anyone know of anything like that out there?

  2. PlutoniumKun

    The only possible bright point in all this is that the elites are now demonstrably scared about what is happening:

    Climate Crisis fills top five places of World Economics Forum risks report.

    The report was released ahead of the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos next week, which will be attended by the chief executives of some of the world’s biggest and powerful companies. Despite the large number of participants flying in to Switzerland by private jet, the WEF said Davos would be a carbon-neutral event.

  3. Rod

    Young climate activists and school strikers from around the world will be present to put pressure on these leaders.
    from the Guardian Article.
    There will again be actions worldwide to make the point–look for your allies and join them.
    Blackrocks decision on disinvestment in Climate Crises Contributors is a significant public step-away that is significant signaling that others may have been waiting for.

    but, y’know–

  4. Petter

    What are we, as in WE, me and you, average schmucks, supposed to do that will make a real difference? What are we willing to let our governments do?

    The Empty Radicalism of the Climate Apocalypse:

    At a moment when advocates make a range of demands that are simultaneously vague and controversial, from ending capitalism and economic growth to rejecting materialism and consumption to reorganizing the entire global economy around intermittent sources of renewable energy, almost no one, in either electoral politics or nongovernmental organizations, seems willing to demand that governments take direct and obvious actions to slash emissions and replace fossil energy with clean.

    By that, I don’t mean simply demanding that governments regulate emissions. Advocates and even many governments have been calling for and even committing to deep emissions cuts for decades now, to little effect. Rather, I mean actually offering specific proposals to rapidly build the infrastructure of a low carbon economy or restrict carbon-intensive activities woven into the fabric of Americans’ daily lives. It is one thing to suggest to Americans that tackling climate change will involve regulating fossil fuel companies or providing tax credits to help build the clean energy industries of the future, quite another to tell them that they will need to stop flying or that starting immediately the government will need to take possession of the auto or utility industries.

    As many environmentalists and even elected Democrats have come to believe that serious climate disruption is already upon us, it has become fashionable to call for a World War II-style mobilization to fight climate change. But virtually no one will actually call for any of the sorts of activities that the United States undertook during the war mobilization—rationing food and fuels, seizing property, nationalizing factories or industries, or suspending democratic liberties.

    1. Math is Your Friend

      Various surveys have established that people are in favour of mitigating anthropogenic warming as long as it doesn’t cost them anything and it doesn’t materially inconvenience them.

      That’s in the countries that would actually prefer to take action. Other countries have adamantly insisted that they have a right to burning their fair share of carbon to catch up with the counties that first took advantage of fossil fuels.

      My own guess is that there are probably 4 to 5 billion people living in countries that are willing to shift to other less advantageous forms of energy at some time a few decades down the road, maybe.

      The thing is, there is nothing that one can do to actually force them to act against their own best interests, particularly when two of them, at least, will be among this centuries super-powers.

      That leaves aside the elephant under the table. So far, it seems to me that no one has really fully taken into account the feasibility of a world-wide technological and economic restructuring on a rush basis. People assume that because you can build a few hundred thousand electric vehicles a year that it is equally feasible to build a hundred and fifty million (roughly twice current production to allow for early replacement of IC vehicles) a year without major changes in all sorts of things – mining, transportation, farming, manufacturing, power generation, power distribution, and so on. Given that there are roughly 1,500 million vehicles now, with 2,000 million likely by around 2030, that’s a lot of new stuff to mine, smelt, manufacture, assemble, install, upgrade, and maintain – and a lot of people to train as miners, steelworkers, machinists, etc…

      So far I have not come across an analysis that seems to address the economic, environmental, and practical impacts of such a transformation.

      Furthermore, it’s a bit like Brexit – very few people seem to have any idea of the massive impact that such a program would cause, diverting people and resources away from other things that also need to be done. When these changes begin to bite – hard – it is likely that any government causing too much pain will either have to walk back changes, or fall. In that regard, the yellow vest crowd in France is a warning of things to come.

      If countries like China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, and others do not jump on the ‘no greenhouse gas’ bandwagon, then there is no way that current CO2 levels will go down, and it is very unlikely that they will not go up, at least for several decades.

      A passive strategy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions for part of the planet is unlikely to reverse current trends. Active measures will almost certainly be needed – enhanced carbon capture, measures to increase cloud cover and other strategies to reduce the amount of energy reaching the lower atmosphere, measures to increase the amount of light reflected as light from the surface of the earth, and possibly other strategies will all be needed.

      One thing that could help significantly is siting nuclear reactors in and near urban areas where their cooling systems could provide heat for industrial processes, building heating, year round agricultural production, and domestic water heating, thus displacing other energy consumption with free heat.

      One also wonders how much we could gain by making all ‘up-facing’ surfaces white or another highly reflective colour. Particularly in cities, dark roads and roofs may be significant contributors to heating, and also to the need for air conditioning – a useful secondary path to heat reduction.

      Note – referring to heating in terms of ‘Hiroshima bombs’ seems a sensationalist propaganda attempt to tie global warming to ignorant fear of ‘nuclear anything’.
      Given that the energy driving a hurricane can total the energy of ‘10,000 nuclear bombs’ (thanks NASA, though it would help to know which bombs) those of us who know that the Hiroshima bomb was distinctly anemic (as such things go) might be surprised at how little warming is going on.

      1. Jermy Grimm

        Unless fossil fuels are infinite or rapidly renewable “the feasibility of a world-wide technological and economic restructuring on a rush basis” or on a slower basis seems beside the point. Humankind cannot burn fossil fuels at present rates indefinitely. Feasible determines whether there is an economic restructuring or a chaotic collapse.

        I am growing very pessimistic there will be any mitigation of global warming. Like you I see more hope and wishes than plans and real commitment. I see little to suggest we might hope for the kind of cooperation mitigation efforts will require.

    2. Stadist

      Radical emission reductions have been mostly abandoned, except in the speeches. The main push all around the world has been the technological: Everyone can make change buy putting solar panels on their roofs, buying renewable energy, buying and driving electric cars and stopping to eat meat.

      Actual problem driving the emissions in general is the consumption and there is too much consumption. The above technological approach doesn’t really address the consumption, instead it’s working hard to enable more consumption.

      Everyone is obsessed in preserving the economical structure of our society, for all it’s alleged welfare gains: obesity, mental health problems, falling or stalling life expectancy figures for less well off parts of western populations. These can be seen in major EU economies, perhaps showing that EU is more of the same or even on same trajectory how things have developed in USA.

      1. xkeyscored

        Radical emission reductions have been mostly abandoned
        Globally, we haven’t had any emission reductions, let alone radical reductions. On the contrary, our GHG emissions continue to increase almost every year.
        I think it’d be more accurate to say the only emissions reductions have been in speeches. Would that speeches affected the climate as much as real gases.

  5. Felix_47

    A gas tax, which would ultimately cost the oil producers like the Saudis money, is still the third rail of American politics. As long as gas is cheap expect no change. Even in Germany SUV sales are booming.

  6. KEVIN

    Resources that provide some relief from the bad news on climate change.

    Heller on the climate as it is:
    Ben Davidson’s full explanation of climate science basics: (executive report of same:
    Ben Davidson on Clouds and climate:

    Ben Davidson 11,000 “Scientists” :
    Ben Davidson on some of the important climate change models:

    1. xkeyscored

      I watched the first two minutes of the first video.
      Are you and Tony Heller aware that the USA is not the entire world? It’s called global warming because it’s not a local thing, it’s a planetary phenomenon. Some areas will get wetter, some drier; most hotter, but some (maybe) cooler, and certainly we can expect ‘wild’ weather. Where I am, the cool season started two weeks earlier than usual this year, and low temperatures were unusually prolonged – exactly the sort of thing climate change implies.
      If I claim that, overall, most people lose money at casinos, will you point to a winner or two as proof that the reverse is true?

  7. JohnB

    I recommend the documentary Chasing Coral on Netflix, documenting the die-off of coral, and how this is an inevitability due to warming oceans.

    A related documentary is Chasing Ice, which I haven’t watched yet – about melting glaciers.

  8. Ralph Johansen

    Unless we go to a global climate footing analogous to the WW2 war footing, in spades, and in that process reconcile the deep no-growth advocates of the well-off classes with the climate justice demands of the poorer classes, we will see disaster compounded. We cannot go there without recognizing that capitalism is the monumental barrier to this sort of change and acting drastically to remove that system of producing our needs and wants. This infers that capitalism is a system based ineluctably on highest profit on capital invested. To act otherwise than pursue highest return on profit invested is for the managers of capital to risk market share to competition, as they sacrifice profit to measures on the part of their corporations to mitigate effects on climate, and thereby risk loss of .competitive advantage and corporate collapse.

    Can you imagine the plight of a CEO of a transnational corporation going to Davos and sitting in on a meeting where the drastic effects of current corporate practices on environment are documented and the alternatives laid out? The CEO then comes back to the corporate boardroom and says we gotta do this and this and this and it’s imperative to save the world from chaos, even though it will affect our bottom line and reduce market share unless we all do it – all players round the global who are similarly situated. Next thing s/he knows s/he’s sitting out on the street.,

    So if we are to move forward, we need leadership that will dramatize the problem and take the risks of describing the solution – moving from capitalist production to proactive cooperative production of needs with the participation in planning and execution by all of us. Or do we just sit on our duffs, hands folded and head bowed saying this is impossible, and go quietly.

    The best prospect we have now for that leadership, even against a hostile Congress, SCOTUS and corporate media, is Bernie Sanders, with all his New Deal yes buts. Not Warren, who has declared that she is a capitalist to her bones, and when Trump in his state of the union address asked all who did not want to see socialism in the US to stand up, she stood up and roared. Sanders and AOC and a few others remained seated.

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