Five Ways Climate Change is Affecting Our Oceans

» Posted by on Oct 21, 2014 in Environmental | 1 comment

Five Ways Climate Change is Affecting Our Oceans

This is a brief extract of an article I found in the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) site. While you may disagree with some of EDF’s ideas and methods some of the information presented is worthy of wider dissemination.

The oceans have a large capacity to absorb heat and carbon dioxide; however, where is the tipping point to degradation? There is not one simple answer, but it is noteworthy to highlight some of the impacts.
Temperatures in the shallowest ocean waters rose by more than 0.1 °C a decade for the past 40 years (that is almost 1/2 °C) and average sea levels have increased worldwide by about 19 cm since 1901. Most of the effects noted below are the response to these changes.

1. Coral bleaching
Coral bleaching results in the starvation, shrinkage, and death of the corals that support the thousands of species that live on coral reefs (see the accompanying photo of bleached coral).
2. Fish migration
Some fish species may move toward the poles or start to inhabit different strata of the ocean column. What are the impacts?
3. Drowning wetlands
Rising sea levels are also “drowning” wetlands. Wetlands normally grow vertically fast enough to keep up with sea level rise, but recently the sea has been rising too fast for wetlands to keep their blades above water. Coral reefs and sea grass meadows are also in danger of “drowning” since they can only photosynthesize in relatively shallow water.
4. Ocean acidification
The ocean has absorbed about 30 percent of all of the carbon dioxide sent into the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution. The trend in ocean acidification is about 30 times greater than natural variation, and average surface ocean pH has dropped by 0.1.

Increasing acid levels affect the absorption of calcium carbonate that forms skeletons and shells that affects ecosystems, such as coral reefs, which depend on the formation of calcium carbonate to build reef structure.
5. A disastrous positive feedback loop
Finally, acidification also appears to be reducing the amount of sulfur flowing out of the ocean into the atmosphere. This reduces reflection of solar radiation back into space that results in a kind of positive feedback loop of more heat being absorbed and the effects on the ocean magnify.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Barry,
    Great article, I see you are getting the blogging down pat. I am am impressed!

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