Global Scientists Shocked by True Scale of Ocean Warming

When talking about global warming, we often tend to think about droughts, water shortage and desertification. But we must not forget that 72%, almost three quarters of our planet is covered in oceans – and believe it or not, that’s where global warming will strike the hardest.

A thorough study

Oceanic global warming is causing many marine species to change their habits, their breeding patterns, and migrate towards the poles, much faster than land animals, a study conducted by 17 institutions across the world concluded. As these species move, they disrupt the food chain, affect all sea life, as well as humans who depend on the sea for food.

The report, “Global imprint of climate change on marine life,” will be a part of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, IPCC, Assessment Report due for publication in 2014. The IPCC is the world’s top organization for estimating the extent and threats of climate change, as well as assessing scientific, technical, and socioeconomic information concerning climate change, its effects, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

“The effects of climate change on marine species have not been a major focus of past IPCC reports because no one had done the work to pull together all the disparate observations from around the world,” said NCEAS associate Carrie Kappel. “This study provides a solid basis for including marine impacts in the latest global accounting of how climate change is affecting our world.”

The only good news this study brings is that previous estimations of oceanic climate change were fairly accurate – 81 percent of changes across different populations and ocean basins were consistent with the expected impacts of climate change.

In order to conduct this massive study, researchers gathered information from peer reviewed literature, creating a database of 1,735 changes in marine life from the global peer-reviewed literature, including marine mammals, fish, seabirds, turtles, squid, plankton, molluscs, deep sea invertebrates and crustaceans, mangroves, seagrasses and deepwater algae, covering the polar, temperate, subtropical and tropical oceans.

“This is the first comprehensive documentation of what is happening in our marine systems in relation to climate change,” said Parmesan. “What it reveals is that the changes that are occurring on land are being matched by the oceans. And far from being a buffer and displaying more minor changes, what we’re seeing is a far stronger response from the oceans.”

Warming the very core

Zooplankton, copepod with eggs (Photo by Matt Wilson/Jay Clark, NOAA NMFS AFSC)

Zooplankton, copepod with eggs (Photo by Matt Wilson/Jay Clark, NOAA NMFS AFSC)

The study found that phytoplankton zooplankton, and bony fish show the largest shifts; this is especially worrying because they are the very backbone of the food cycle. For example phytoplankton – which provide the basic food for all life in the seas – are now blooming an average of six days earlier in the season, compared to land plants. Baby bony fish are hatching on average 11 days earlier in the season.

“The results were quite a shock,” says co-author Professor John Pandolfi of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and University of Queensland. “We found that changes in sea life attributable to a one degree increase in the Earth’s overall temperature appear much greater than those seen in life on land so far.”

It’s estimated that oceans absorbed 80 percent of the extra heat put into the Earth system by humans, but nevertheless, warmed slower due to their sheer size.

“When you see changes as large as these, life generally has three options – migration, adaptation or extinction. In the case of migration and extinction, these can directly affect industries like fishing and tourism which depend on local sea life,” he said.


20 thoughts on “Global Scientists Shocked by True Scale of Ocean Warming

  1. dannyR

    “Roger A. Pielke
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    For his son, see Roger A. Pielke, Jr..This biographical article relies too much on references to primary sources. ”

    My science profs would never have allowed such a source to be included in the citations for even a course essay.

  2. TreeParty

    I don’t think that RSS and UAH data sets, that the deniers use to claim “no warming in decades”, take these findings into account. How deceitful does that make the deniers? Hopefully, this report will be featured in WUWT, etc.

  3. dannyR

    “global warming” is not a buzz-phrase. It was intended as a specific metric of climate, and climate is an atmospheric attribute. See Miriam-Webster online. Naturally it is part of the overall atmosphere/hydrosphere/geosphere dynamic, but we don’t need ‘oceanic global warming’ to muddy the waters among the general public.

    The global atmospheric T/time slope of has practically flattened over the past ~18 years. I’m happy that climatologists have, by this article, acknowledged this inconvenient truth, and many are actually positing theories to explain it, rather than explain it away; although some die-hards insist it is nothing more than large-scale stochastic variation over a trend.

  4. Stephen Leslie

    This is going to come across as racist (it’s not), but *for the most part* whites are reducing their numbers. Why can’t Asians and Indians?

    If white people are expected to go all green (pardon the pun), why shouldn’t the same be expected of Indians and Asians etc.? India and China are bursting at the seams with people .. why are they getting almost a FREE PASS when it comes to green responsibility?

    India is building almost 400 new coal fired power plants this year, mainland China is building WELL OVER 400 NEW COAL FIRED POWER PLANTS this year alone. Why aren’t they expected to go green?

    Anyway, it’s not that I’m for or against any race; but if one race such as the whites can reduce their number (yes, there will be fewer whites next year than this year), the rest should too. Eventually, we could have a world of just 1 to 3 billion, and that would make it easier on the planet. As it is, there are almost three billion just between mainland China and India alone.

    But it’s not going to happen if the people in India continue to reproduce like animals.

    Stop having so many kids, India!

  5. TreeParty

    Global warming = warming of the globe. Includes atmosphere, oceans, land masses, etc.

  6. TreeParty

    “It was intended as a specific metric of climate”. Citation? Why don’t YOU see Merriam Webster online? Global warming definition: “an increase in the earth’s atmospheric and oceanic temperatures widely predicted to occur due to an increase in the greenhouse effect resulting especially from pollution.” I tend not to take seriously someone who posts citations that refute their assertions, just so you know…
    The T/time slope for the atmosphere has indeed gotten less steep for the past ~18 years, which is not to say that it is not still a positive slope, and that the slope mainly looks much less steep if you cherry-pick the time series to include 1998. But I wonder why you neglect to focus on the point of this report, which is that the observed effects of the oceanic warming on the marine ecosphere are “shocking”. You’re right; global warming affects the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and the geosphere. We should be alarmed at the consequences of all of the above. And remember that the associated phenomenon of ocean acidification is very worrying as well.

  7. TreeParty

    Your link is 404. I suspect that it is because the URL includes an extraneous close parenthesis at the end. Meanwhile, do you have any evidence for your assertion that “they (the cited impacts) have nothing whatsoever to do with ocean temperatures”?

  8. Progressive Republican

    Btw, “due for publication in 2014.“?

    That’s last year.

    Do you mean 2016?

  9. juan

    “But it’s not going to happen if the people in India continue to reproduce like animals” Yeah!

    Indians should reproduce as fine delicate Europeans and Northamericans using yoga and tantric phylosphies. Dirty Indians, they just reproduce themselves instead of thinking day & night on the high values of the Anglosaxon excelency. Learn from Adolf and other proud examples of the Occidental Mind, eliminate instead of dirty procreation. You can also become gays and have fun without peopling the planet.

  10. TreeParty

    OK, you fixed the link. Good. Now: do you have any evidence for your assertion that “they (the cited impacts) have nothing whatsoever to do with ocean temperatures”? Just a “gut feeling” that “that’s a tiny change, ergo…” Most unscientific, dude…

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