The oceans of the world are facing serious risks related to climate change - here's how that could affect you.
As we reported earlier, a recent study from scientists working with the American Geophysical Union described a measurable and potentially devastating decline in dissolved oxygen levels throughout the world’s oceans. While the study only examined one aspect of the effects of climate change on the ocean, there are a wide range of shifts occurring that could have profound impacts for life inside the water and out.
The most recent study on the effects of climate change on the sea modeled the changes in dissolved oxygen through the end of the 21st century. They found that in some areas, a measurable decline would be apparent by the 2030s, while other regions may not see significant changes until 2100.
But the drop in dissolved oxygen throughout the world’s oceans paints only a part of the picture. The Environmental Protection Agency lays out several key shifts that are occurring in the ocean as a result of climate change.
Among the biggest shifts in the ocean as a result of global warming is the amount of heat stored in the water. The oceans cover roughly 70 percent of the planet’s surface area, which provides a lot of space to store incoming solar radiation. The amount of heat energy stored in the ocean influences surface temperatures and current paths, which can have a significant effect on weather patterns over time in certain coastal regions.
Another key concern regarding climate change’s effects on the oceans is the sea level – the line where the water meets the land. Paired with thermal expansion of the water molecules due to the increase in stored heat, freshwater added to the ocean from melting glaciers in Greenland, the Arctic and Antarctica are accelerating the rate of sea level rise in a number of low-lying areas already. This largely threatens coastal populations and resources situated near the coast.
Finally, climate change is creating problems for all of the marine life throughout the world’s oceans. Increasing acidity is wreaking havoc on corals and other organisms with hard shells. Paired with declining levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, massive ecosystems upon which countless other species, humans included, rely are put at risk.
Scientists aren’t positive how these sudden changes in the ocean will play out in the coming years, but evidence shows that the changing climate isn’t just leading to warm weather here on land.
A press release from the American Geophysical Union describing the details of the study can be found here.