The earth's oceans are heating up significantly faster than previously thought, according to report published in Science on Thursday.
According to the researchers, records of ocean warming between 1971 and 2010, the time period used in United Nations climate reports, underestimated how they are heating up by an average of 40 percent.
The report corrected errors in previous studies by incorporating new methods to fill in data gaps, including by relying more heavily on satellite records.
"Recent observation-based estimates show rapid warming of Earth’s oceans over the past few decades," researchers wrote. "This warming has contributed to increases in rainfall intensity, rising sea levels, the destruction of coral reefs, declining ocean oxygen levels, and declines in ice sheets; glaciers; and ice caps in the polar regions."
Heating oceans melt ice caps, which riases the sea level, and also kill off marine ecosystems and make hurricanes more destructive.
Oceans are a crucial buffer against climate change, and 93 percent of heat trapped by greenhouse gases have been absorbed by the ocean.
Ocean temperatures are a better method for showing human impacts on the environment than measures of air temperature because they are less affected by variability, like short-term weather patterns, according to the researchers.
The report says the new ocean heat analysis shows the planet is "clearly warming."
The report also called for improvements in ocean observation to be able to improve models and better predict climate change.