We’ve got a problem. The Earth is getting warmer. And it doesn’t matter if you think people caused it or not – the planet doesn’t give a shit what temperature it is. Only people do. So guess who has to solve it? The real question is, how big of a problem can it be when global temperature has only increased by a degree or two?
Global Warming’s Effects on the Ocean
The first place we should look is to the oceans. According to NOAA:
Changes in ocean heat storage are important because the ocean absorbs more than 90 percent of the Earth’s excess heat increase that is associated with global warming.
… a specific layer of the Indian and Pacific oceans between 300 and 1,000 feet (100 and 300 meters) below the surface has been accumulating more heat than previously recognized. They also found the movement of warm water has affected surface temperatures.
The problem is rising ocean temperature is the “greatest hidden challenge of our generation,” according to this recent comprehensive study, released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are many documented problems associated with warmer water, but I only care about one right now… storm intensity.
Here is a graph of the increase in Global Ocean Heat Content.
So, How Much Energy Are We Talking About?
Currently we’re setting at about 24 x 1022 joules of energy in the oceans. To put that in perspective, that is 10 times the amount of energy remaining in all of the coal on Earth!
Still, I have a hard time with understanding that. So lets look at it a different way. Let’s compare the energy to a gas grill! Yeah, the kind you cook on. This is a Weber e310. The most average gas grill you can imagine.
And of course, the very first item in the description is:
Three stainless steel burners put out 32,000 BTU-per-hour
Bring On The Math!
- 1 BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is the amount of heat required to raise 1 POUND of water 1 degree Fahrenheit.
- A US liquid gallon of water weighs about 8.34 pounds.
- It takes 8.34 BTUs to heat 1 US Gallon of water 1 degree.
- There are 187,000,000,000,000,000,000 Gallons (187 Quintilian) in the Pacific Ocean.
So, it would take 1,559,580,000,000,000,000,000 BTUs to raise the Pacific Ocean a single degree.
That’s 1.5 SEXTILLION BTUs. Or in the case of our Weber e310 grill, it’s 47 QUADRILLION grills running for 1 hour.
That has already happened. And that is ONLY the Pacific ocean, which is less than half of the world’s ocean volume.
Ocean Potential Energy = Storm Kinetic Energy
The problem with all of those BTUs sitting out there in the water is that the energy has to go somewhere! And it does:
- Hurricanes intensify significantly faster now than they did 25 years ago.
- Global wind speeds increased by an average of 5% over the past two decades.
- During the past 25 years, satellites have measured a 4% rise in water vapor in the air column.
- 76% of weather stations in the United States have seen increases in extreme precipitation since 1948.
- Extreme downpours are happening 30% more often.
- The largest storms now produce 10% more precipitation.
- Rainfall totals from tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic have risen at a rate of 24% per decade since 1988
- There were twice as many extreme regional snowstorms between 1961 and 2010 as there were from 1900 to 1960.
- Atlantic hurricanes are about 60% more powerful than they were in the 1970s.
So when you see record after record coming from Hurricanes like Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia… it’s easy to see the connection. Climate change doesn’t seem so bad when it’s only 1 degree. But you know, when it’s 1,559,580,000,000,000,000,000 BTUs that might be another story.
Your Future Awaits
Now the scary part – “…scientists predict temperatures in the oceans could rise by up to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100”. So multiply those big ass numbers from earlier by 7.2 and I’d be surprised if the majority of humanity will last the remainder of this century.
But maybe that’s the lesson. We sit around and do nothing after essentially destroying the atmosphere, so the planet gets rid of us and corrects itself.
If you’re wondering why no one does anything about it, well when the politicians are 70+ years old they don’t really give a shit. They ain’t going to be around to live with the consequences.