2018 could be the warmest year on record for oceans, claims a new study, adding the oceans are warming at a much faster rate than expected.

India, with its massive coastline of nearly 7,517km is also among the most vulnerable countries to the impact of ocean-warming and rising sea levels.

The new research published in Science magazine fuels simmering concerns over the risks of climate change. The data showed more consistent, but stronger ocean warming since 1960, than previously reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report published in 2013.

“While 2018 will be the fourth warmest year on record on the surface, it will most certainly be the warmest year on record in the oceans, as was 2017 and 2016 before that," said co-author ZekeHausfather, from University of California, Berkeley.

The warming trends raise concern because the Indian Ocean plays a major role in driving weather patterns in the sub-continent, especially for monsoon rains.

“It is true that oceans are warming at a higher rate, but Indian Ocean has been observed to be warming more rapidly than other oceans since 2000. The major question is, if it continues to warm at such higher rate, then how will it distribute that heat? Will it retain it in the intermediate layers, or finally come up and start affecting the weather patterns, which is what we are trying to understand," said S.C. Shenoi, director, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad, which is under the ministry of earth sciences.

Even as oceanographers in India are trying to understand the causes for this excessive warming, a major question before them is how this warming would impact weather patterns, extreme events, especially the south-west monsoon, which is crucial for the country’s economy.

“Right now, we do not have an answer for that. But it’s the big question we are after, and studies are underway. The warming patterns of oceans will determine how the monsoon would behave in future. The current data is on global scale, which is not very detailed for our region. We have started using coupled models to study that. But we cannot jump to conclusions just yet," added Shenoi.

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