Simple Science: How climate change impacts oceans


On Saturday, Sept. 3, the United States and China announced their decision to join a Paris agreement to lower greenhouse emissions.

The two nations account for almost 38 percent of global emissions combined, and will now begin working to achieve their emission goals.

Greenhouse emissions are known to be the strongest promoters of climate change in recent decades. They include carbon dioxide, methane gas and nitrous oxide.

Among the affects of greenhouse gases are a range of changes in the oceans’ properties, such as their temperature, sea level and acidity. This is significant because the oceans influence global and local weather, which is in turn influenced by climate change.

Greenhouse gases help trap heat from the sun inside the atmosphere, warming the Earth. This is dangerous over time as the oceans will absorb more heat and subsequently increase in sea level.

These warmer waters have the potential to help the development of stronger tropical storms, having profound effects on coastal communities.

Certain gases, such as carbon dioxide, may be taken out of the atmosphere and cycled down into the oceans. This helps reduce climate change as it can no longer trap heat in the atmosphere, but now may change the acidity of the water.

Highly acidic water is not conducive to certain organisms that make shells, such as shellfish, due to the specific conditions needed to form the shell. Subsequently, this can affect the diversity of ocean life.

Despite the agreement made by many nations last week, changes in the ocean systems takes a very long period of time, so it can take decades for the oceans to adjust to changes that have already been made.


Harshel Patel is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in molecular biology and biochemistry. He is the digital editor of The Daily Targum. He can be found on Twitter @harshel_p.


Harshel Patel

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