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Scientists Measure Underwater Earthquake Sounds to Shake Up Climate Change Approach

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As temperatures continue to rise, our oceans take in and store vast amounts of heat that play a role in changing weather patterns and the surrounding climate. This vast absorption can offer insights as to how fast temperatures are changing and perhaps how we may respond.

According to Science News, to monitor the change, a global fleet of about 4,000 devices called Argo floats is collecting temperature data from the ocean’s upper 2,000 meters. However, this method proves to only reach certain parts of the ocean.

To combat this limit, Wenbo Wu, a seismologist at Caltech, and colleagues are revisiting the old idea that underwater sound speed can shed clues into oceanic temperatures. By measuring earthquake-generated sound waves across the East Indian Ocean, Wu and his team were able to measure temperature changes between 2005 and 2016.

Oceanic sound waves are measured through the vibration of water molecules. As temperatures become hotter, the molecules move more easily. This allows scientists to track increases and changes through time.

The history of documenting these sounds have involved examples that disturbed the well-being of marine life. Wu and his team have developed a way to measure sound waves in a way that works with the natural movement of the ocean floor. This is a major reason why the East Indian Ocean was chosen for the study—due to high seismic activity.

The data revealed a slight warming trend in the waters, of about 0.044 degrees Celsius per decade. The next phase of the study includes plans for tracking oceanic sound waves at greater distances.

Although this approach requires more time in gathering data, it offers a more ethical way of studying changes without inflicting harm on wildlife. It also touches on the idea of water’s ability to hold memory. As we see our actions prove to leave lasting effects on the world around us, may these discoveries serve as a guide leading us toward planetary harmony.

 

Additional Resource:

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6510/1510

 

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