World Oceans Day is June 8. Excessive carbon emissions are worsening ocean health through oxygen loss, coral bleaching, and acidification.

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CLIMATE MATTERS
Ocean Health Overview Ocean Dead Zones

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Coral Bleaching Update Global ocean temp since 1901

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SOCIAL MEDIA SHARES

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World Oceans Day is June 8, but excessive carbon emissions are worsening the ocean’s health http://buff.ly/2rAKzU2  #climatematters

 

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Warming waters are decreasing oxygen in the oceans, creating dead zones for plants and animals http://buff.ly/2rAKShE #climatematters

 

June 8th is World Oceans Day, a day to raise awareness of the ocean’s importance to the planet. 93% of the excess heat absorbed by the climate system goes into our oceans, creating major consequences to the planet. While more extreme storms and rising sea levels are some of the impacts of warmer oceans, rising CO2 levels and the resulting warmer oceans are impacting ocean health itself.  The most well-known effects are coral bleaching and ocean acidification, but an emerging issue is the decreasing oxygen levels in the warming waters to the planet.

 

Oxygen enters the ocean through two ways: interactions between its surface and the atmosphere, and as a photosynthesis byproduct from phytoplankton in upper layers of the ocean, much in the same way plants on land produce oxygen. As the ocean waters warm, they aren't able to hold as much oxygen (decreased solubility). Normally, oxygen-rich water mixes with deeper layers of the ocean that tend to be oxygen-poor. But warmer water creates an ocean that is more intensely stratified, meaning it is less likely to mix with the colder water found below. As a result, not only is less oxygen dissolved in the oceans, but it’s harder for it to be mixed to deeper areas.

 

When water loses most of its oxygen, it creates areas referred to as “dead zones,” where most marine plants and animals cannot survive. While these dead zones are often caused by fertilizer runoff currently, it seems the decreasing ability of the oceans to hold dissolved oxygen with continued warming will increasingly become a problem for marine ecosystems and fisheries in the coming decades.

 

A recent study found that 15% of the observed oxygen loss in oceans since 1960 could be attributed to the effects of warming water. Since 1960, the researchers found that dissolved oxygen content in oceans has declined by 2% on average. This percentage is not evenly distributed, and some oceans have lost significantly more. Another recent study projects that with unabated greenhouse gas emissions, oxygen lows will fall below their current range of variability by midcentury, forcing marine systems to either adapt or move in order to survive.

 

BLEACHING & ACIDIFICATION

Corals Bleaching Acidification
Shellfish Corroding

Coral Bleaching

Acidification

Shellfish Corroding

 

Warmer oceans also lead to coral bleaching. Coral reefs, the “rainforests of the sea,” are important ocean ecosystems that protect coastlines, support fisheries, and draw in a lot of tourism around the world. When ocean waters get too hot, corals expel the algae that live within them, losing their source of nutrients, turning white and sometimes dying.

 

In addition, the more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the more is taken up by the oceans leading to ocean acidification. When carbon dioxide dissolves in the ocean, it reacts with water to produce carbonic acid, a process that depletes the ocean of carbonate ions, which corals and many other animals use to build shells and reef structures. Some of these animals may be small, such as phytoplankton, but they form the base of the ocean food chain and are critically important for overall ocean health.  

SOCCOM -
CLIMATE CENTRAL'S SOUTHERN OCEAN RESOURCE

 

On World Oceans Day, our Southern Ocean research and communication project, SOCCOM Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling Project, can be a useful tool to explain the importance of our oceans.

 

About one quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere is taken up by the world’s oceans, and about half of that absorption happens in the Southern Ocean! The NSF-funded SOCCOM Project is continuing to monitor, model and communicate the outsize role of the Southern Ocean in our climate system.

 

Check out SOCCOM’s Flickr site and YouTube channel for tools to tell the story - including new, stunning video and pictures from our trip across the Southern Ocean to Antarctica!

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75 percent of the heat taken up by the global oceans is absorbed by the Southern Ocean http://buff.ly/2rLSsEJ #climatematters

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Sound Bites:

Two SOCCOM scientists discuss the way climate change affects ocean health

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Prof. Lynne Talley: Climate change causes oxygen-low regions to expand

Prof. Jorge Sarmiento: Ocean acidification is just one part of ocean health

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