Approximately 75% of the area covered by ocean is deep, dark, and cold. This is known as the deep sea. But even in these remote regions of the planet things are heating up.
According to a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, researchers analyzed a decade of hourly temperature readings at four depths in the Atlantic Ocean’s Argentine Basin, off the coast of Uruguay. The research team selected recording depths that would best represent the average depth of the ocean, which is just over 12,000 feet.
The researchers found that deep sea temperatures fluctuate more than was previously known. They also detected a warming trend at the bottom of the ocean. In fact, all recordings indicated a warming trend of 0.02 to 0.04 degrees Celsius per decade between 2009 and 2019. This is a significant warming trend in the deep sea because temperature fluctuations are typically measured in thousandths of a degree.
Researchers say this increase is consistent with warming trends in the shallow ocean associated with anthropogenic climate change. However, they say more research is needed to better understand what is driving the warming temperatures in the deep sea.
A better understanding of what is driving these changes could have far-reaching implications. Since oceans absorb a significant amount of the world’s heat, learning about the oceans’ temperature trends could help researchers better understand temperature fluctuations in the atmosphere as well.
The researchers hope their findings will demonstrate the need to survey deep ocean temperatures annually in order to better identify the long-term trends.
Photo, posted July 1, 2018, courtesy of NOAA Ocean Exploration and Research via Flickr.