According to a new study from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), in 2021 our oceans reached their hottest and most acidic levels since we began recording them. The study, which was part a larger report released annually, looked at four main drivers of climate change: greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean temperatures, and ocean acidity. All hit record highs last year.
“Our climate is changing before our eyes,” WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. “The heat trapped by human-induced greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come.”
The rapidly rising temperatures and greenhouse gasses are having a catastrophic effect on our oceans. According to the report, most of the Earth’s oceans saw at least one strong heatwave last year. Those abnormal heatwaves are stressing the coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and kelp forests to a point that they may not be able to return from. Global fish populations are also falling rapidly.
The WMO’s report also found that the ocean’s pH are alarmingly low — the lowest they’ve been in over 25,000 years. As the ocean becomes more and more acidic, it isn’t able to absorb as much of the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide. And since we’re still puking that out at never-before-seen rates… well, it’s having a serious knock-on effect.
That’s not the end of the bad news, though. Over the last decade, sea levels around the globe have been rising at an average of 4.5 mm each year. Between 1993 and 2002, they were rising about 2 mm. The increase is largely due to melting ice sheets. Researchers have been telling us what we need to do for a few years now, and Taalas used the report to say it again.
“Sea level rise, ocean heat and acidification will continue for hundreds of years unless means to remove carbon from the atmosphere are invented,” Taalas said.