The ocean warming is a alarming symptom of climate change.Unfortunately, this problem has a global scale and has undeniable negative effects not only on the marine ecosystem, but on the planet.
Keep in mind that ocean warming is an outcome of our exagerated emission of the greenhouse gases in the last 200 years. In order to avoic IPCC worst case scenario, measures to combat this environmental problem must be developed as soon as possible.
The solution is not easy or smple, it is very important to first know the causes and consequences of global warming so that we can also be aware of the importance of saving the oceans.
Check out the main causes and consequences of the oceans.
Causes of ocean warming
One thing is certain: the main culprit for ocean warming is, of course, global warming, which, in turn, is caused by massive emissions of gases that intensify the greenhouse effect.
By a simple physical reaction, atmospheric warming transmits thermal energy to the waters, raising their temperature.
Global warming is a phenomenon of vast proportions, being a product of the continuous emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the origin of which is linked to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, industrial processes, food waste, and other factors.
Global warming is melting the glaciers all over the planet. This process not only raises sea levels and affects the salinity of the water, but also helps increase ocean temperatures.
This is because, due to its white color, the frozen sea, especially in the Arctic, is able to reflect sunlight, preventing a greater absorption of heat. This reflectivity causes sunlight to hit the surface and return to space.
As the polar ice caps shrink, the seawater becomes more exposed and absorbs heat, instead of reflecting it if it had ice. This process traps more and more heat waves, which will further shrink the ice, generating more warming.
Ocean warming effects
Ocean warming triggers a number of high-impact side effects, such as the aforementioned rise in sea level and changes in water salinity. However, it does not stop there, as ocean warming also affects the oxygenation and stratification of the water masses, causing damage to marine biodiversity.
Importantly, this environmental problem also causes interference in wind and rainfall patterns, as well as the intensification of extreme weather episodes such as typhoons.
Because these changes act in combination, their effects are magnified, representing a serious ecological imbalance.
To mitigate and, who knows, end all these problems, we need to drastically reduce the amount of CO2 (the main gas causing the greenhouse effect) in order to think about controlling the warming of the planet and, also, of the oceans.
Coral Bleaching: The Worst Effect of Warm Oceans
Coral bleaching is a process in which the coral loses its photosynthesizing algae called zooxanthellae, that are responsible for these coral colors.
The outcome is spooky: coral becomes translucent and the calcium carbonate skeleton of this animal becomes visible. That’s exactly the reason why the problem is known as coral bleaching.
The cause? I believe you can guess: rising water temperatures in the oceans, and can be a transient or a fatal event.
Coral reefs are super important marine ecosystems that stand out for their great biodiversity. Biologically speaking, they are rigid structures formed by marine organisms that have a calcareous skeleton, such as corals and coralline algae.
As mentioned above, the corals associate themselves with algae called zooxanthellae. Because of this, coral reefs are mainly found at shallow depths, since the algae need light.
Coral reefs and zooxanthellae
In shallow water there is a symbiotic relationship between corals and zooxanthellae, single-celled algae.
This relationship is beneficial for both, because the coral is responsible for providing shelter, carbon dioxide, and inorganic nutrients for the zooxanthellae, while the alga provides the products of its photosynthesis process, that is, organic components that will serve as food for the coral.
In addition, zooxantella algae help increase the rate of calcification of the coral. This relationship, although important, is easily destroyed in situations of environmental stress.
How does bleaching affect corals?
Coral bleaching is a process in which the zooxanthellae are expelled or their photosynthesizing pigments are destroyed.
Since the algae are responsible for the color of the coral, it is observed that the coral loses its color, becoming translucent. In this situation, it is possible to observe the calcium carbonate skeleton of this animal.
The main cause of bleaching is the increase in water temperature, either by global warming or by seasonal events. It is also worth pointing out that, although it is directly related to temperature, bleaching can be the result of other factors such as high ultraviolet light incidence, excessive sedimentation, pollution, and salinity.
Coral bleaching is extremely harmful because algae and corals live in harmony in the aquatic environment, relating to each other in a mutualistic way.
The algae are responsible for providing organic components for the coral, which serve as food for this animal.
Depending on the duration of the bleaching or the intensity of the environmental change that caused the problem, the coral may die.
During bleaching, without proper nutrition, the coral ends up undergoing changes that alter other organisms that are associated with it.
In this process, corals become more susceptible to disease, thus making the ecosystem more fragile. In addition, since the algae are responsible for increasing the rate of calcification of the reef, this rate is reduced as a result of bleaching.
All these changes in the corals directly harm the reef, and may lead to a loss of biodiversity in this ecosystem.
Ocean temperatures increasing more
We all know climate change is undeniable, and the data shows the same. In the last 6 years, the oceans temperature didn’t stop rising. Even with natural phenomena that should help us, like La Niña, the waters are hotter than ever.
The finding, based on recent data up to 2021 and authored by 23 researchers from 14 institutes, was published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.
According to the data collected by the scientists in the study, the most recent scenario shows a tendency for the temperature of the oceans to increase in the long term, mainly due to the warming of the planet caused by human action.
The increase in temperature is associated with the fact that about 90% of global warming is absorbed by the oceans. By absorbing more CO2, for example, the oceans, of course, begin to warm up.
This process has so far saved humanity and all the planet’s biodiversity from more serious consequences. On the other hand, all this has been feeding other dangerous natural phenomena, such as acidification and the rise in ocean temperatures.
According to the study author Lijing Cheng, the ocean is capable of absorbing up to 30% of co2 from our atmosphere, and this can’t be good not even for marine life or the rest of the planet.