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The world had better pay attention NOW – to soaring ocean temperatures

Soaring ocean temperature is ‘greatest hidden challenge of our generation’
IUCN report warns that ‘truly staggering’ rate of warming is changing the behaviour of marine species, reducing fishing zones and spreading disease,
Guardian, . 6 Sept 16, The soaring temperature of the oceans is the “greatest hidden challenge of our generation” that is altering the make-up of marine species, shrinking fishing areas and starting to spread disease to humans, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of ocean warming.

ocean-heating

The oceans have already sucked up an enormous amount of heat due to escalating greenhouse gas emissions, affecting marine species from microbes to whales, according to an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reportinvolving the work of 80 scientists from a dozen countries.

The profound changes underway in the oceans are starting to impact people, the report states. “Due to a domino effect, key human sectors are at threat, especially fisheries, aquaculture, coastal risk management, health and coastal tourism.”…..

The scale of warming in the ocean, which covers around 70% of the planet, is “truly staggering”, the report states. The upper few metres of ocean have warmed by around 0.13C a decade since the start of the 20th century, with a 1-4C increase in global ocean warming by the end of this century.

The ocean has absorbed more than 90% of the extra heat created by human activity. If the same amount of heat that has been buried in the upper 2km of the ocean had gone into the atmosphere, the surface of the Earth would have warmed by a devastating 36C, rather than 1C, over the past century.

At some point, the report says, warming waters could unlock billions of tonnes of frozen methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from the seabed and cook the surface of the planet. This could occur even if emissions are drastically cut, due to the lag time between emitting greenhouse gases and their visible consequences.

Warming is already causing fish, seabirds, sea turtles, jellyfish and other species to change their behaviour and habitat, it says. Species are fleeing to the cooler poles, away from the equator, at a rate that is up to five times faster than the shifts seen by species on land.

Even in the north Atlantic, fish will move northwards by nearly 30km per decade until 2050 in search of suitable temperatures, with shifts already documented for pilchard, anchovy, mackerel and herring.

The warming is having its greatest impact upon the building blocks of life in the seas, such as phytoplankton, zooplankton and krill. Changes in abundance and reproduction are, in turn, feeding their way up the food chain, with some fish pushed out of their preferred range and others diminished by invasive arrivals.

With more than 550 types of marine fishes and invertebrates already considered threatened, ocean warming will exacerbate the declines of some species, the report also found…….

Ocean acidification, where rising carbon dioxide absorption increases the acidity of the water, is making it harder for animals such as crabs, shrimps and clams to form their calcium carbonate shells.

The IUCN report recommends expanding protected areas of the ocean and, above all, reduce the amount of heat-trapping gases pumped into the atmosphere.

“The only way to preserve the rich diversity of marine life, and to safeguard the protection and resources the ocean provides us with, is to cut greenhouse gas emissions rapidly and substantially,” said Inger Andersen, director general of the IUCN.https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/05/soaring-ocean-temperature-is-greatest-hidden-challenge-of-our-generation

September 7, 2016 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, oceans

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