Environment

Here’s why our oceans are getting warmer

As most of us know, our oceans make up 70% of the earth’s surface. The other 30% is made up of land mass, some of which we inhabit.

Over the years, we have not only occupied that 30% but we have also produced large amounts of greenhouse gases(GHG) (i.e. water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane) while doing so. These gases then trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere.

This trapped heat is absorbed primarily by the ocean. Not only because it makes up 70% of the earth’s surface but also because water absorbs 1000 times more heat than air.

For decades, our oceans have been absorbing heat with little to no rise in its own temperature. However, within the last decade, the rise of GHG in our atmosphere has caused ocean temperatures to rise.

The ocean’s surface temperature is whats most affected [for right now].

Since 1880, the sea’s surface temperature has slowly and steadily increased. Within the past ten years, sea surface temperatures went above average every year.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), 2016 was the hottest year for our ocean since 1880. The ocean temperature that year was 0.76 C (1.37 F) above the average.

2015 is the second warmest and 2017 is the third warmest year to date for our oceans.

Screen Shot 2018-10-18 at 7.26.02 PM

Image & Data Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental information, Climate at a Glance: Global Time Series

Detrimental effects

1. Rising Sea levels

When water is heated, it expands. Ocean levels have already begun to rise. According to NOAA, the sea level rises at a rate of about 1/8 of an inch per year. Warming oceans and icebergs melting are part of the reason for this.

2. Food Chain break down

Microscopic [i.e. phytoplankton or krill] organisms favor cold water rather than warm water. Warming waters could result in a major decline in the population of these organisms. If these organisms numbers decline, larger animals such as whales will suffer. There will be a domino effect up the food chain.

3. Coral bleaching

Coral reefs contain photosynthetic Algae. In this symbiotic relationship, the algae are protected by the coral and the coral receives compounds [glucose, glycerol and amino acids] that allow the coral to make protein, fats and calcium carbonate.

This algae prefer cold waters and usually die if the water temperature is too high. Without algae, the coral won’t be able to produce protein, fats and calcium carbonate. It will become white and this is what is known as coral bleaching.

 

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