The Environmental Clock Ticks— Changes in the Ocean

The ocean contains the largest ecosystem on our planet, as it covers over 70% of the earth’s surface and accounts for approximately 91% of all water found on it. The ocean is not only dynamic but also sensitive, and is severely impacted by our lifestyles. The content of greenhouse gases that cause global warming has increased in the atmosphere in the last century, which has not only impacted the surface temperature of the earth but has also had a major bearing on our oceans. Oceans and marine life have been deeply affected due to global warming, to the extent that they are now threatened by it, which is a consequence of human activities. As a result, the earth’s temperature is also rising steadily. According to researchers, the temperature of our planet has increased by up to 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. It is our duty, therefore, to ensure that the oceans are kept clean as possible, since we are arguably the ones to be blamed.

The gravest impact of global warming is that it has made the ocean water warmer, as it absorbs the heat from the air. Research proves that all the oceans on our planet have grown warmer over the course of the past fifty years. The topmost layer of the water is being seriously affected by the heat, albeit the bottom hasn’t been left unaffected. Scientists have proven that the surface temperature of the ocean is growing at a rate of 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit with every passing decade, and the situation is only going to worsen in the future.

The effects of acidification have been manifesting themselves since the start of the famous Industrial Revolution. Thus, in addition to the rise in its temperature, the ocean water also has been turning acidic due to the absorption of harmful gases such as carbon and methane. This causes coral bleaching, which is fatal for coral polyps, the organisms that help to form coral. The absorption of harmful gases by the ocean water results in a chemical reaction, which in turn reduces its PH level and poses a threat to the marine food chain and ecosystem.

The ocean also plays a major role in determining the climate, which is being largely impacted by global warming. The effects of global warming on the ocean are leading to erratic changes in the weather conditions, which are negatively impacting life on earth. There are places which are experiencing heavy rainfall while some are suffering from drought. Coastal areas are also increasingly prone to flood because of the melting of ice caps and glaciers.

Ocean currents play a very important role in supplying nutrients to sustain the organisms in the marine ecosystem. Slow currents imply that fewer nutrients are being  channelized to them, while at the same time resulting in a surplus amount of carbon content in the ocean. Among various marine species affected by global warming are fish, corals, seals, seabirds and penguins. Many of these species have not been able to survive because of the rise in the temperatures of the ocean. Many have already become extinct, and in due course of time, others are likely to disappear too. Global warming has also affected ocean water salinity to a great extent. The areas with high evaporation rates compared to those of precipitation are getting drier, and those with higher rate of rainfall and comparatively lesser rate of evaporation are receiving more rain. This results in an increase in the salinity of the ocean i, while  fresh water bodies get clearer. Melting of polar ice caps due to global warming is resulting in a decrease in the content of salt water. If the temperature of the earth’s surface keeps rising, then this will drastically affect various activities and processes that take place on our planet.

Mankind is responsible for destroying our oceans which are a gift from nature. The process had already begun with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, and was aggravated by the increase in the number of factories emitting harmful gases. The industrial waste being added to water results in water and land pollution and this has simultaneously also increased the content of harmful gases in the atmosphere. Deforestation, rise in the use of vehicles, urbanization, burning fossil fuels and other such activities are contributing to the same. Until and unless we stop all these activities and put a check on the emission of harmful greenhouse gases, the ocean water will continue to get warmer in the subsequent years to come and will impact the atmosphere adversely.

Picture Courtesy- Bunkyo| Info

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