Scientists behind a major study that claimed the Earth’s oceans are warming faster than previously thought now say their work contained inadvertent errors that made their conclusions seem more certain than they actually are.
Two weeks after the high-profile study was published in the journal Nature, its authors have submitted corrections to the publication. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, home to several of the researchers involved, also noted the problems in the scientists’ work.
Below is the press release on the study’s website:
Note from co-author Ralph Keeling Nov. 9, 2018: I am working with my co-authors to address two problems that came to our attention since publication. These problems, related to incorrectly treating systematic errors in the O2 measurements and the use of a constant land O2:C exchange ratio of 1.1, do not invalidate the study’s methodology or the new insights into ocean biogeochemistry on which it is based. We expect the combined effect of these two corrections to have a small impact on our calculations of overall heat uptake, but with larger margins of error. We are redoing the calculations and preparing author corrections for submission to Nature.
According to Keeling, the problems came in how the researchers dealt with the uncertainty in their measurements–the findings suffer from too much doubt to definitively support the paper’s conclusion about how much heat the oceans have absorbed over time.
The study measured the volume of gases, specifically oxygen and carbon dioxide, that have escaped the ocean in recent decades and headed into the atmosphere as it heats up. It found that the warming “is at the high end of previous estimates” and suggested that as a result, the rate of global warming itself could be more accelerated.
The study suggests there is less time than previously thought to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Researches at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California noted, “This study, although there are additional questions that are arising now, confirms the long known result that the oceans have been warming over the observed record, and the rate of warming has been increasing.”