A Wollongong scientist is among a team of international researchers who are improving the accuracy of climate change predictions by studying sea surface temperatures.
Australian Research Council Fellow Dr Helen McGregor was the lead author of research published this week in Nature Geoscience, which says the Earth is warming about 20 times faster than it cooled during the past 1800 years.
The study looked specifically at natural ocean changes over the past 2000 years and found a cooling trend in the surface of the oceans until the 1800s. They found frequent volcanic eruptions had a long-term cooling effect on oceans before "man-made global warming" began.
"[The temperature of the ocean] plays such a critical role in the Earth's climate system," Dr McGregor said.
"I see the ocean just about every day. Looking from the beach it never ceases to amaze me; the sheer power of the ocean, but beyond the coastal fringe, I see the vast expanse of the global oceans quietly but surely playing their vital role in the climate of our planet, and I can't help but feel inspired."
Dr McGregor, together with 36 other scientists and 84 technical staff, are on a floating drill ship and laboratory off the West Australian coast as part of the International Ocean Discovery Program.
"The results will build a picture of how the ocean, currents and climates in this part of the world change and how these changes relate to other regions globally. Watch this space," Dr McGregor said.