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OCEANS AND CLIMATE: IMPACT ON INDIA AND SOUTH ASIA



  Jun 06, 2024

OCEANS AND CLIMATE: IMPACT ON INDIA AND SOUTH ASIA



Introduction

The Earth’s climate is experiencing unprecedented changes, and the oceans are emerging as a likely candidate for a new mystery feedback affecting global temperatures. Since the start of the industrial era, oceans have absorbed about a quarter of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and around 90% of the excess heat from fossil fuel burning.

Rising Global Temperatures

April to June is traditionally the hottest period in South Asia. However, recent global temperature records have consistently broken historical highs. The past 11 months have each been the hottest on record for their respective months, suggesting something significant is happening beyond typical cyclical patterns like El Niño.

Potential Causes

El Niño

El Niño, a warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean, typically affects global weather patterns, but this year’s El Niño was not strong and has been fading since December. Therefore, it is unlikely to be the main cause of the ongoing high temperatures.

Reduced Pollution

Climate scientist Jim Hansen suggests that new pollution regulations reducing sulphur dioxide emissions, which previously reflected sunlight back into space, could be contributing to the temperature rise. However, the timing of these changes does not align perfectly with the recent temperature spike.

Ocean Feedback

The most concerning possibility is that the oceans, having absorbed significant heat over the past two centuries, are now releasing some of this heat back into the atmosphere. Recent data shows that average daily sea surface temperatures have reached an all-time high, indicating that the oceans may be reaching their capacity for heat absorption.

Oceans’ Role in Climate

• Heat Absorption: Oceans have soaked up around 90% of the excess heat from global warming. This has moderated atmospheric temperature increases but may now be reversing.

• Carbon Dioxide Absorption: Oceans have absorbed about a quarter of human CO2 emissions, reducing atmospheric levels but potentially altering ocean chemistry and impacting marine life.

• Potential Feedback Loop: The release of stored heat from oceans could create a feedback loop, where warming oceans release more heat, further increasing global temperatures.

Implications for India and South Asia

The persistent heat waves and rising temperatures in India and South Asia pose significant challenges, including:

• Agricultural Impact: Increased temperatures can affect crop yields, water availability, and food security.

• Health Risks: Prolonged heat waves increase the risk of heat-related illnesses and deaths.

• Economic Consequences: The overall economy can suffer due to reduced agricultural productivity and increased healthcare costs.

Conclusion

The potential for the oceans to act as a significant climate feedback mechanism highlights the urgent need for further research and action. Understanding and mitigating these effects are crucial for the future stability of the climate, particularly in vulnerable regions like India and South Asia.


SRIRAM’s


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