Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In the oceans, the heat is really on

John F. Bruno, associate professor in the Department of Marine Science at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, professor and director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland in Australia, in the Newsobserver (Raleigh, North Carolina): It's not climate change, it's ocean change! The oceans are choking on greenhouse gases. Our emissions are changing ocean temperature, pH and circulation with wide-ranging effects on biological productivity and ecosystem health. These are among the conclusions of five review articles published in a special feature on the oceans in a recent issue of Science magazine.

The world is saturated by coverage of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet the impacts of this tragedy are localized, short-term and trivial compared to the broader effects of climate change. The oil spill has damaged the lives and businesses of many innocent people. Remarkably, however, every day we are releasing several thousand times as much carbon as the Gulf spill by driving, flying and consuming and by heating and cooling our energy-inefficient houses.

…Nearly all of the debate - or at least what is depicted in the media as a debate - about global warming has focused on land surface temperatures. However, over 85 percent of the extra energy trapped by soaring greenhouse gases has gone into the ocean. We all call this man-made catastrophe "global warming" or "climate change," but "ocean warming" and "ocean change" are really more descriptive of what is happening.

… Deepwater dead zones have expanded, probably due to both local nutrient pollution as well as climate change. The melting of Arctic sea ice will allow thousands of species from the north Pacific to colonize the Atlantic. This will be the first mixing of the distinct biota of these regions in nearly a million years. Similar changes are expected in Antarctica, where warming is enabling marine predators to invade shallow-water ecosystems for which the freezing temperatures have been an effective barrier for 40 million years….

Waves at Ocean Beach, California, shot by Mila Zinkova, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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