How much of the excess heat from global warming is captured in the oceans?

  • A. 30%
  • B. 60%
  • C. 90%

Correct answer

Oceans capture nearly all excess heat. 

Burning fossil fuels has resulted in more heat being trapped in the earth’s atmosphere. Over the last 50 years, about 93% of that accumulated excess heat energy has been stored in the oceans. They are like giant sponges, absorbing most of the extra heat radiated back towards the planet from the atmosphere, which is why the average surface temperature has only risen by about a degree.

Data source: IPPC AR5, Page 42, Figure 1.2, Box 3.1,

The ignorance we found

Why do people pick the wrong answer?

MISCONCEPTION: I feel global warming outside my window

Many climate reports mostly talk about the atmosphere and the warmer weather on land, which makes it seam like global warming is all about air temperature. WRONG! When you dip your toe into the deep ocean, it sure doesn’t feel “warmer”, but if you had been dipping a thermometer instead over the decades the difference would be obvious.

Hundreds of years ago people were already measuring the temperature of ocean water. Almost everywhere we measure today, it’s warmer.