Because of the mass of the oceans, they have warmed only .09°C to a depth of 2000 meters over the period 1955-2006, or about a quarter of the pace of the atmosphere. Their average depth is 4267 meters; therefore they have over twice the capacity to absorb the heat attributed to global warming as the 2000 meters measured in the 1955-2006 study by Levitus.
The Fifth Assessment report of the IPCC was confronted with the fact the atmospheric temperature trend of the past sixteen years has ground to a halt. Climate skeptics seized on this leveling of the temperature as evidence that global warming too has ground to a halt.
Levitus however shows that the heat that hasn’t been measured in the atmosphere – which accounts only for about 2.5 percent of the total global warming heat – has been found in deeper water.
Over ninety percent of warming heat has gone into the oceans; 85% above 750 meters and the rest deeper. This stratification presents the conditions essential to producing work with a heat engine. Ocean thermal energy conversion or OTEC uses such a heat engine and would mitigate many of the problems presented by global warming, by converting heat that causes thermal expansion to work, diminishing the power of storms that move heat to the poles, moving heat to regions of diminished coefficient of expansion, and converting ocean volumes to the energy currency and gas hydrogen that is necessary to move offshore generated power to market.
A recent study published in Science points out that the storage capacity of the oceans is far greater than previously expected. Yair Rosenthal, a climate scientist at Rutgers University and the lead author of the study, says:
"We may have underestimated the efficiency of the oceans as a storehouse for heat and energy. It may buy us some time – how much time, I don’t really know. But it’s not going to stop climate change."
Converting ocean heat to the power the world needs however not only buys us time it will stop climate change.
This is one human endeavor that would change the climate for the better.