Over 70% of Earth’s surface area is ocean, which plays a major role in regulating Earth’s climate system. Much of the heat trapped by increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels is absorbed by the ocean, causing ocean temperatures to rise.
The bars on the graph show the number of degrees by which the average sea surface temperature for each year differs from the average sea surface temperature during the last century.
Global Sea Surface Temperatures Are Rising
During the past four decades, sea surface temperatures have exceeded the 20th century average every year and are now higher than at any other time since records began.
Why It's Important
Changes in sea surface temperatures reflect the overall warming trend in the climate system and, in turn, influence weather and climate patterns worldwide.
Sea surface temperature data can be used to understand the response of the ocean to global warming and, in turn, how that response may influence other changes in climate.
About Sea Surface Temperatures
The data shown represent temperatures in the upper 10 meters of the ocean and were drawn from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) NOAAGlobalTemp dataset.