Climate change and its effects on the planet's oceans

Published on Monday, 27 June of 2022

Climate Change is presented as the greatest problem of our era. As a consequence of global warming and this of the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, climate change affects the seas and oceans on multiple fronts at great speed and scale, being able to negatively modify life on a global scale.

The temperature changes that these events bring with them affect the warming of the waters, along with the temperature of the earth, leading to the melting of the poles and the rise of the sea level.

This brings with it various consequences, such as that many species are losing their habitat and that others are approaching extinction, such as the case of seals, penguins or polar bears; as well as the alteration of general migration patterns of those species that migrated to the poles in search of colder temperatures for their survival. And on the other hand, those species accustomed to warm temperatures are in the same way in danger, since they cannot adapt to the climate at the same speed as temperatures rise.

Undoubtedly, the change in sea temperatures modifies ocean currents, altering migratory processes. This affects the entire global coastal population that depends on fish as its main food source.

Ocean currents visualized using data gathered between 2005 and 2007. New evidence suggests ocean currents are moving faster now than they did two decades ago. Photo Credit: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Another species that would be affected by the warming of the water would be the corals, which live in symbiosis with the seaweed. The union and group growth of both leads to the formation of reefs, where a large part of the marine ecosystems develop.

Some coral reefs have existed for millions of years on Earth, so many climatic changes have survived, but with the bleaching of corals due to warming of the water, or the reduction of seaweed by the same effect and the acidification of the oceans, these ecosystems are in danger.

Approximately 25% of marine species live on reefs, so if algae or corals die, these species would stop receiving most of the nutrients formed in these ecosystems. In turn, these species are food for larger ones, so if the former disappear, the food chain would be broken. This would end up affecting humans by consuming a large amount of products from the oceans.

In the same way that there are species that migrate towards cold temperatures, hot ones attract foreign species or bacteria such as jellyfish. This has already happened in the Mediterranean, where pests force the passage to the beaches to be blocked.

With the melting of the poles, salt water levels have risen dramatically in recent years, causing the flooding of low-lying land areas and the contamination of freshwater wells, lakes and rivers.

Another consequence of the warming of the surface of the seas and oceans is the modification of the world’s meteorological systems. At higher temperatures, strong storms and torrential rains would form more easily, which in recent years have increased and have generated terrible floods, leading to the loss of material and human lives.

These changes also affect global wind patterns and wave energy generated by waves, which would be enhanced by rising water temperatures and lead to more powerful waves.

One of the most serious effects is the absorption by the seas of 30% of carbon dioxide and 80% of the heat generated by greenhouse gases.

Earth’s Long-Term Warming Trend. Photo Credit: NASA

On the one hand, this calms the situation from the terrestrial side and the atmosphere by regulating the global temperature that has been saved by the absorption of 90% of excess heat by parts of the oceans, but on the other hand it harms them much more, heating them from the surface to approximately 700 meters deep where most of the flora and fauna live.

A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2. Photo Credit: NASA

This without counting the acidification of seawater as a result of the absorption of carbon dioxide that radically modifies the pH of the oceans and alters the life of a large number of living beings.

These are some of the effects that the seas and oceans are suffering today. According to the scientific community, if this continues, it will not be long before irreparable damage becomes, but if action is taken soon, there is still much that can be saved. With the Ocean Decade beginning, a plan has been put in place to slow the deterioration of our oceans and save them and all the life in them.

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