That vast system of ocean currents shunts warm and cold water between the Arctic, North Atlantic and Antarctic oceans. The authors of this study include Guancheng Li, Lijing Cheng, Jiang Zhu of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Science (IAP, CAS) and the CAS Center for Ocean Mega Science; Kevin E. Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research; and Michael E. Mann, with the Department of Meteorology & Atmospheric Science at The Pennsylvania State University; John Abraham, of the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering. “If anything, the impacts of climate change are proving to be worse than we predicted.”. In other words, the new study indicates that "humans have made the oceans more stable, and the result will be more extreme weather and the acceleration of climate change," as study co-author John Abraham wrote Monday for The Guardian. A column highlighting climate-related studies, innovations, books, cultural events and other developments from the global warming frontier. The intensified layering, called ocean stratification, is happening faster than scientists expected, an international team of researchers reported in the study, published Sept. 28 in the journal Nature Climate Change. Other processes important in influencing global sea level include changes to groundwater storage including dams and reservoirs. If we reach a tipping point, we will likely see more extreme weather events, changing ocean currents, rising sea levels and temperatures, and melting of … The impacts of the Antarctic Ice Sheet response to climate change will have global consequences for millions living near the coast. Previously, he reported on the environment, endangered species and public lands for several Colorado newspapers, and also worked as editor and assistant editor at community newspapers in the Colorado Rockies. By continuing to use this site, you accept this policy. In the new study, the researchers used a wealth of readings from new instruments deployed at many different depths and spread widely across the oceans to get a much better understanding of how the layers are changing all the way down to a depth of 6,500 feet, he added. “In the second case, it means that the oceans hold less oxygen. 1. Near the surface of the ocean, global warming is creating increasingly distinct layers of warm water that stifle seawater circulations critical for regulating climate and sustaining marine life.  @aasjournal, Copyright © 2021 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. Increased stratification of the ocean could drive a vicious cycle of warming, Mann added. “The nutrients from the bottom have to merge with the light from the sun in upper layers for high productivity,” but the increasingly stable layers may limit the rise of those nutrients, he added. In a report published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the international team of climate scientists said they found that stratification globally had … Climate change is affecting the chemistry of seawater. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report estimates that the upper ocean (surface to 750 m deep) has warmed by 0.09 to 0.13 degrees C per decade over the past 40 years. The study also adopted an improved metric of stratification (related to the density gradient over depth), and then provide a true estimate of ocean stratification and its changes. Pulitzer Prize-winning, nonpartisan reporting on the biggest crisis facing our planet. Source: NOAA MESA Project. It prevents the vertical exchanges of nutrients and oxygen, and impacts the food supply of the whole marine ecosystems. It also reduces the capability of ocean carbon storage, exacerbating the global warming. Nature Climate Change. climate change (medium confidence). With increased stratification, heat from climate warming cannot penetrate into the … Increasing ocean stratification. The ocean plays a … Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! Warmer waters also "absorb less atmospheric carbon dioxide" and "hold less dissolved oxygen." And if the layers of warm water slow the ocean’s uptake of carbon dioxide, more heat-trapping CO2 will stay in the atmosphere. Le Quéré, C. and Metzl, N. (2004). As temperatures increase due to climate change, the ocean water becomes more stratified. In a report published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the international team of climate scientists said they found that stratification globally had increased by a … EurekAlert! Menu. With increased stratification, heat from climate warming cannot penetrate into the deep ocean as readily, which helps to raise the surface temperature. 86-108-299-5053 ICN provides award-winning climate coverage free of charge and advertising. An oceanic feature called upper ocean stratification causes upper ocean layers to warm faster than deeper ones. Our no-nonsense daily digest of the day’s must-read headlines from around the web, curated by our expert staff. The interaction between climate and oceans is altering, and the exchange is intensifying. The ocean can help us turn the tide and holds a portfolio of options to combat climate change. The results highlight a new connection between eddy activity, Arctic ice, and ocean stratification, that can now be factored into climate models to … State-of-the-art climate models used today to predict future climate change tend to underestimate the stratification of the ocean. Any slowing documented to date cannot be directly tied to anthropogenic forcing primarily due to lack of adequate observational data and No consistent pattern of nutrient change has been observed for the Northwest Atlantic Ocean off Canada. Sea water generally forms stratified layers with lighter waters near the surface and denser waters at greater depth, i.e. Antarctica in a Changing Climate . Increased layering of the ocean prevents the transport of nutrients from the depths to the surface, which disrupts the ocean food chain, including fisheries that help sustain coastal communities. Mitigation. The global ocean has become more stratified and stable over the past few decades with global warming. But nowadays, “that cold water is warmer than it used to be,” which enables storms to build and maintain intensity,” he said. This indicates a significant change in tropical thermocline depth that is important to the El Nino phenomenon. In the first case, that means that the oceans are less able to take up CO2 from the atmosphere, and so atmospheric CO2 builds up even faster. It’s a threat to the food web, including fish.”, Trenberth said the effect on hurricanes is also clear. New research published in Nature Climate Change on Monday shows that oceans are stratifying faster than previous research indicated. The new data shows that ocean has become more stratified by 5.3% since 1960 for the upper 2000m. The intensified layering, called ocean stratification, is happening faster than scientists expected, an international team of researchers reported in the study, published Sept. 28 … If the current slows, more hot water could build up along the East Coast of the United States, leading to more coastal heat waves and rising sea levels. This stratification increase reveals a robust human-driven change in the ocean due the long-term temperature and salinity change structures. buoyancy changes—could have dramatic climate feedbacks as the ocean absorbs less heat and CO2from the atmosphere. If more and more heat stays near the surface of the ocean, the warm water will heat the atmosphere above. According to a 2015 study published in the journal Climate Dynamics, impacts would include cooling in the North Atlantic and Northern Hemisphere in general; less precipitation in the midlatitudes of the Northern Hemisphere; large precipitation shifts in the tropics and a strengthening of the North Atlantic storm track. The heat in the top 300 to 400 feet of the ocean is what fuels tropical storms. The results highlight a new connection between eddy activity, Arctic ice, and ocean stratification, that can now be factored into climate models to produce more accurate predictions of Arctic evolution with climate change. Get a daily email of our original, groundbreaking stories written by our national network of award-winning reporters. “The take-home point, here, is that once again we are learning that the uncertainties are not breaking in our favor,” he said. Recall from the ‘Ocean Layers & Mixing’ page that our oceans are already a bit stratified due to differences in temperature and salinity. A Pulitzer Prize-winning, non-profit, non-partisan news organization dedicated to covering climate change, energy and the environment. The ocean becomes less effective as a “carbon sink,” he said. A disruption could lead to major climate shifts. “Evidence is mounting that this circulation system is already slowing down, as has been predicted by climate models,” he said. Those multi-year warm-cold fluctuations affect temperatures around the world, with global hot spikes during strong El Niños and cool-downs during La Niña. The sheets of warm water block flows of heat, carbon, oxygen and nutrients within the water column, and between the oceans and atmosphere. We can imagine how much energy the ocean can absorb and contain, and, when it’s released slowly, how big the impact is.” The researchers reported other effects, such as ocean salinity pattern amplification and more stratification due to the upper layer warming quicker than the deeper sections. Therefore, the stratification is a central element of Earth's climate system, and understanding its changes with global warming has great scientific, societal and ecological consequences. That’s problematic for sea life that, like us, needs oxygen. The Earth’s climate and oceans are changing because of activities that emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The increase in stratification is primarily due to the increase in surface temperature, whose influence upon density is largest in the tropical regions, and decreases with increasing latitude. And that means the negative impacts will arrive faster and also be greater than expected, said Mann, a co-author of the study. As the climate responds to decades of increasing carbon emissions, the store of energy and heat from the atmosphere builds up in the ocean. EurekAlert! For now, oceans take up about a quarter of the CO2 emissions from human activity, “but prospects are for less of that as time goes on,” Trenberth said. ... How ocean solutions can combat climate change. Our #1 newsletter delivers the week’s climate and energy news – our original stories and top headlines from around the web. Credit: Bob Berwyn. This decline results from projected increases in ocean stratification under global warming, which hinders the supply of deep ocean nutrients to the well-lit surface ocean. This slowing would also affect the climates of North America and Europe. The increase in layering means there is less exchange between the surface and deeper oceans, “which is generally bad news on a number of fronts,” he said. “We know that something like this happened during the early Holocene 9,000 or so years ago,” he said, but added that the new paper doesn’t identify specific impacts to the El Niño cycle. Tiny phytoplankton: the foundation of the oceanic food chain. A new study shows more heat is building up in the upper 600 feet of the ocean than deeper down. According to a 2015, The impacts on marine life are more certain, said co-author, Many Overheated Forests May Soon Release More Carbon Than They Absorb, The Radical Case for Growing Huge Swaths of Bamboo in North America. If the ocean surface warms faster and less carbon is carried to the depths, those processes along with other climate feedbacks could lead atmospheric CO2 to triple and the global average temperature could increase 8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, he added. Oxygen-depleted dead zones are already spreading in the oceans.”. The areas characterized by the largest stratification changes include the Arctic, the tropics, the North Atlantic, and the northeast Pacific. Therefore, the observed ocean stratification increase is another irrefutable piece of evidence of human-driven global warming. And if less warm water is transported northward, the climate in northwestern Europe would become more volatile. The oceans absorb the heat equivalent of 5 Hiroshima style atomic bombs per second, more than 90% of climate change's excess global heating. Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, IMAGE: Ocean color difference when two water mass meets. Bob Berwyn an Austrian-based freelance reporter who has covered climate science and international climate policy for more than a decade. Stratification intensifies under warming. Inside Climate News uses cookies. We deliver climate news to your inbox like nobody else. In the tropics, there is a very strong stratification increase at upper 200m. And, he added, increasing stratification is slowing the steady, massive distribution of cold and warm water between the Arctic and the Southern, or Antarctic, Ocean. Water rolls up onto a North Carolina beach as Hurricane Florence approaches in this 2018 photo. As climate change warms the oceans (even just an increase of about 0.2C per decade, on average), the warmer water (which is lighter) tends to stay on top of what is then a layer of colder water. The main basis for estimating the stratification change is the sparse distribution of ocean observations both horizontally and vertically. Coastal Flooding. This has major consequences for life in the ocean by reducing nutrients and oxygen, and it greatly affects climate. provides eligible reporters with free access to embargoed and breaking news releases. Equally important is how the layering affects the amount of carbon dioxide going into the ocean. That increasingly distinct warm layer on the surface can intensify tropical storms, disrupt fisheries, interfere with the ocean absorption of carbon and deplete oxygen, The intensified layering, called ocean stratification, is happening faster than scientists expected, an international team of researchers reported in the, The researchers found that, overall, stratification in the upper 600 feet of the ocean increased by 6 percent in the last 50 years. You will be redirected to ICN's donation partner. Don’t miss a beat. The impacts on marine life are more certain, said co-author Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Climate crisis: record ocean heat in 2020 supercharged extreme weather Scientists say temperatures likely to be increasing faster than at any time in past 2,000 years Published: 4:00 AM A new study shows more heat is building up in the upper 600 feet of the ocean than deeper down. The increase of ocean stratification feedbacks to climate change. News; Investigations. The research suggests that some of the worst-case global warming scenarios outlined in major international climate reports can’t be ruled out, he said. Previous quantification of stratification change has been limited to a simple index and has neglected the spatial complexity of ocean density change. Every day or once a week, our original stories and digest of the web's top headlines deliver the full story, for free. Mann said a warm upper ocean cannot hold as much dissolved gas, whether it’s carbon dioxide or oxygen, just like a warm soda can’t hold its fizziness. Warmer waters also "absorb less atmospheric carbon dioxide" and "hold less dissolved oxygen." As human-caused greenhouse warming has fundamentally altered oceanic temperature and salinity fields, impacts to stratification are expected but the details have been difficult to discern until now. In a report published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the international team of climate scientists said they found that stratification globally had … Warmer ocean surface waters result in increased ocean stratification, which means less ocean mixing, which normally would help deliver oxygen from surface waters to the deep. Upper Ocean Water Masses Shrinking in Changing Climate: Less Efficient CO2 Sink Apr. That increasingly distinct warm layer on the surface can intensify tropical storms, disrupt fisheries, interfere with the ocean absorption of carbon and deplete oxygen, Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State, said. The same burning of fossil fuels that … A warming ocean has huge implications for climate change, some of which we’ve already discussed.Another of these implications is ocean stratification, or the increased layering of our oceans due to differences in temperature. warmer fresher waters atop colder more saline ones. “That’s a double whammy. are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! EurekAlert! At the front line of climate change, the ocean, the coastlines and coastal communities are being disproportionately impacted by increasing carbon dioxide (CO 2) and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activities. The researchers found that, overall, stratification in the upper 600 feet of the ocean increased by 6 percent in the last 50 years. Nutrient supply to the ocean-surface layer has generally decreased in the North Pacific Ocean, consistent with increasing upper-ocean stratification (medium confidence). But the growing stratification could suppress those cycles, “leaving the Pacific in a permanent El Niño state,” Mann added. Dan Gearino’s habit-forming weekly take on how to understand the energy transformation reshaping our world. Saturation of the Southern Ocean CO 2 sink due to recent climate change. Based on observational evidence, theoretical understanding and robust ESM projections, it is very likely that stratification in the upper few hundred meters of the ocean below the mixed layer will increase significantly in the 21st century over most ocean basins as a result of climate change, and abyssal stratification will likely decrease. The ocean has become significantly more stratified over the last half century as the climate has warmed, inhibiting the ability for heat, oxygen, and carbon dioxide from the surface to be transported deeper into the ocean, according to a new study. Previous calculations measuring the change over time were not as accurate because they didn’t include as much data, said co-author Lijing Cheng, with the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Atmospheric Physics. An even stronger ocean stratification increase, as much as 18%, has been observed for the upper 150m. Ms. Zheng Lin Strong storms churn up the ocean, bringing colder water to the surface that can limit strengthening, or even weaken a storm. ... ocean stratification. The increase of ocean stratification feedbacks to climate change. “For example it reduces the oxygen supply to the waters below the ocean surface, which is bad for marine life. “This is why hurricanes are bigger and longer-lasting and more intense than before.”. is a service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Earth System Models (ESMs) project that climate change will lead to approximately 1-10% declines in global ocean phytoplankton productivity by the end of the 21st century, under high carbon emissions scenarios. And if less warm water is transported northward, the climate in northwestern Europe would become more volatile. This stable stratified configuration acts as a barrier to water mixing that impacts the efficiency of vertical exchanges of heat, carbon, oxygen and other constituents. Previous calculations measuring the change over time were not as accurate because they didn’t include as much data, said co-author, The observed increase in ocean stratification is “yet another climate science prediction come true,” said climate scientist, If the current slows, more hot water could build up along the East Coast of the United States, leading to more coastal heat waves and rising sea levels. This study used a carefully evaluated ocean temperature and salinity data (IAP products) which overcomes previous systematic biases associated with sampling. A new study, by a group of international researchers from China and U.S., published in Nature Climate Change found that the global ocean has become more layered and resistant to vertical mixing as warming from the surface creates increasing stratification. Science, 316, 1735-1738; published online May 16, 2007. In the middle and high latitudes, significant increases of ocean stratification appear below 500m, implying an impact on deep ocean stability by climate change. Flooding is becoming more frequent along the U.S. coastline as sea level … “Greater stability resists vertical movements and can have profound effects on zooplankton, fish and mammals,” he said. offers eligible public information officers paid access to a reliable news release distribution service. jennylin@mail.iap.ac.cn The new study overcomes the key limitations and provides an estimate on ocean stratification for the upper 2000m and also its spatial structures. Climate change is warming ocean waters and causing shifts in the distribution and abundance of seaweeds, corals, fish and other marine species. Both changes could cause harm to ocean ecosystems. However, this i… The study also suggests that increased layering could affect El Niño-La Niña cycles in the Pacific. view more. We rely on donations from readers like you to keep going. It’s not a big stretch to realize that as our Earth warms, our oceans are warming as well. This observed long-term increasing trend of stratification is mainly caused by stronger ocean warming for upper layers versus the deep oceans (~97%), but salinity changes play an important role locally. The observed increase in ocean stratification is “yet another climate science prediction come true,” said climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf, with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research, who was not involved in the study. by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.