Warming Oceans More ‘Stable’ And That’s Bad, Scientists Warn
Global warming is making the oceans more stable, increasing surface temperatures and reducing the carbon they can absorb, according to research published Monday by climate scientists who warned that the findings have “profound and troubling” implications.
Man-made climate change has increased surface temperatures across the planet, leading to atmospheric instability and amplifying extreme weather events, such as storms.
But in the oceans, higher temperatures have a different effect, slowing the mixing between the warming surface and the cooler, oxygen-rich waters below, researchers said.
This ocean “stratification” means less deep water is rising towards the surface carrying oxygen and nutrients, while the water at the surface absorbs less atmospheric carbon dioxide to bury at depth.
Most of this stabilisation occurred towards the surface and was attributed largely to temperature rises.
They said this process is also exacerbated by the melting of sea ice, meaning that more freshwater – which is lighter than saltwater – also accumulates on the surface of the ocean.
This seemingly technical finding has profound and troubling implications. These include potentially driving more “intense, destructive hurricanes” as ocean surfaces warm. A reduction in the amount of CO2 absorbed, which could mean that carbon pollution builds up faster than expected in the atmosphere.
With warmer upper waters receiving less oxygen, there are also severe adverse implications for marine life.