Oceans were so hot in 2014 they broke researchers’ charts

Updated: January 25, 2015
Oceans were so hot in 2014 they broke researchers' charts

Oceans are warming at an accelerated pace — forcing scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to re-scale its heat chart to account for the warming that occurred in 2014.

This is a big deal, and not because scientists had to redo a chart. As the Guardian’s John Abraham explains, talking about surface temperatures isn’t the same as talking about global warming — the latter refers to the total amount of heat within Earth’s energy system. And most of that heat — more than 90 percent of it — goes into the oceans.

In other words, charts like this, which show the rapid rise of ocean temperatures, are one of the best visualizations we have for what global warming looks like. The full story takes atmosphere and land temperatures into account, too, and together, Abraham writes, it means that “We can now say that the 2014 Earth had more heat (thermal energy) than any year ever recorded by humans.”