(Source: Skeptical Science)
By now you may have heard that 2014 was declared the hottest year since record keeping by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This declaration is certainly alarming, but it overshadows another piece of startling news: ocean warming. Along with the planet’s surface temperature, the ocean is becoming warmer that it keeps “breaking scientists’ charts.” It’s important to note that 90% of global warming heat ends up in the ocean, as seen in the illustration above.
Why is this concerning? As the author of this Live Science article points out, there are numerous damages ocean warming can cause. The ocean has absorbed 30% of carbon dioxide exposed to the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, which has resulted in ocean acidification. The outcome disrupts the formation of calcium carbonate, which is vital for the development of skeleton and shells for many ocean creatures. This disruption also affects organisms residing in coral reefs, which depend on formation of calcium carbonate to build the reef structures. In just the past decade, ocean acidification also contributed to the death of many oyster larvae, pteropods’ shrinkage of their shells, and a slow growth of coral in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
The effects of ocean warming is not only limited to aquatic life, humans are also threatened by these changes. A study by Oceana noted how the changes in the ocean’s chemistry and temperature can impact “the livelihoods of those who depend on fish and seafood” for their diets. The study ranked nations most vulnerable to seafood security threats, with many island nations ranking at the top. Seafood is considered a main source of nutrition in many island nations due to its affordability and availability. Not only does this vulnerability result in food scarcity, but it may cause job losses for small-scale fishermen.
Although ocean warming has contributed to slowing down global warming, it will continue. “We expect global warming to continue,” said Michel Jarraud, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization, in a statement. “Rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the increasing heat content of the oceans are committing us to a warmer future,” said Jarraud.