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Ocean surface heats up -

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Ocean surface heats up

Felicity Ogilvie reported this story on Wednesday, July 29, 2009 12:46:00

PETER CAVE: The surface temperatures of oceans across the world reached a record high for the month
of June and scientists now say that climate change is to blame.

They can't say if climate change is also triggering droughts and floods but they're warning that
those events are also on the increase.

One thing scientists from Queensland say is certain is that the ocean is warming so quickly that
there'll soon be no summer ice in the Arctic.

Felicity Ogilvie reports.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The United States has been keeping records of the world's ocean temperatures for
more than 130 years.

Last month the world's ocean surface temperature was the warmest for any June on record.

Deke Arndt is the chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration - or NOAA as it's known.

DEKE ARNDT: The ocean temperatures were about one degree Fahrenheit warmer than the June average
from the 20th century.

FELICITY OGILVIE: NOAA also found that the global land surface temperature was up 0.7 of a degree
Celsius - making it the world's sixth warmest June on record.

Dr Karl Braganza is the acting head of climate analysis at the Bureau of Meteorology.

He says the rising temperatures show global warming in action.

KARL BRAGANZA: This warming trend in both the oceans and overland, I guess it's in keeping with the
global warming scenarios as at on the IPCC.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Deke Arndt says the ocean is warming because it's sucking heat from the air and
land.

DEKE ARNDT: The ocean and surface, the land surface and the atmosphere are all connected as part of
the climate system and so when you warm that system, there are exchanges of heat between each of
those reservoirs.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Dr Braganza is surprised at how much warmer the ocean became in June.

KARL BRAGANZA: It is actually quite warmer. It is over one degree warmer than in 2005 which is a
significant warming in terms of climate statistics. One degree change in globally averaged
quantities is actually quite a large amount.

FELICITY OGILVIE: NOAA's ocean measurements show an El Nino is on its way.

Dr Braganza says the approaching El Nino is probably causing the ocean's surface to heat up.

KARL BRAGANZA: The ocean has the ability to take heat down into the subsurface and thereby when you
measure the surface of the ocean, you are measuring the heat kid of at that upper layer of the
ocean.

So what has happened over the last 10 years or so is we have had a series of La Nina events and
typically what happens during a La Nina is you actually start to draw down surface heat into deeper
layers of the ocean and what happens when you go to the next part of the cycle which is an El Nino,
the ocean starts to give that heat up again.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The El Nino is expected to bring dryer conditions to eastern Australia.

If it's an extreme event the El Nino the result will be a drought.

Meanwhile in Europe heavy rains have been falling sparking mudslides and floods, but Deke Arndt
says it's not possible to make a direct link between that event and climate change.

DEKE ARNDT: The profound variability, the randomness and the chaos that defines day to day weather
events, it is difficult to attach that directly to planetary long-term scale events because it is
so noisy, because it is difficult to do the computations that are necessary to attribute a singular
event to the long-term planetary changes.

FELICITY OGILVIE: In a separate study scientists at James Cook University in Queensland have been
studying what affect climate change is having on the world's oceans.

Professor Mike Kingsford.

MIKE KINGSFORD: Some areas are quite scary. For example if you look at the Arctic, the predictions
are that between 2013 and 2015 there will be no summer ice in the Arctic. As a result what has been
found is that plankton in the Pacific Ocean is making it all the way through to the Atlantic.

FELICITY OGILVIE: And he says warming oceans are bad news for many marine species.

MIKE KINGSFORD: For example in New South Wales Australia we are finding that many of the kelp are
moving south because it is too warm for them.

So if you are unlucky enough to be a species with a restricted range, the chance of extinction is
very high.

MIKE KINGSFORD: He says carbon emissions need to be curbed now to stop the world's oceans from
getting even warmer.

PETER CAVE: Felicity Ogilvie reporting.