The student news site of Baruch

The Ticker

The student news site of Baruch

The Ticker

The student news site of Baruch

The Ticker

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Marine heatwaves threaten to become a permanent problem

Michael A. Orlando | Wikimedia Commons

With the Earth becoming increasingly warmer due to the rise of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, it is possible that oceanic heat waves may increase in frequency and intensity, subsequently creating the potential for heat waves to devastate marine ecosystems across the globe.

“The blob” is a term used by scientists to describe “arguably the biggest marine heatwave ever seen,” according to The Guardian. This is just one example of the effect that climate change has on the planet due to human-caused global warming — ocean heat waves.

Typically, marine heat waves occur because greenhouse gasses are blocking heat in the Earth’s surface from “escaping into space as freely as it used to,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Consequently, the upper ocean becomes hotter due to absorbing more heat. However, once the ocean remains warm over a period of time, it can trigger a rise in sea levels, a major threat to marine ecosystems and the melting of glaciers. This makes it more likely that ocean heat waves like “the blob” will appear and cause harm to the planet and people, scientists suggest.

Described as the “oceanic equivalent of a deadly summer atmospheric heatwave,” “the blob” formed in 2014 and lasted until approximately 2016, according to The New York Times. It was created after a pattern of increased air sea heat interactions with ocean currents.

In this process, the ocean’s surface absorbed heat from the Earth’s atmosphere. One part of the Pacific Ocean warmed rapidly and made oceanic temperatures rise above normal by “more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Additionally, the presence of the weather pattern El Niño added to the growing warmth in the Pacific that triggered the wave.

“This is a phenomena that we should be placing higher attention on,” Ko Barrett, vice chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on climate change, said when addressing how ocean heatwaves are becoming an pressing issue, according to The Verge.

“The top part of the ocean is warming up about 24 percent faster than it did a few decades ago,” National Geographic said. “Every little bit of warming, however small, has enormous impacts on marine life, storm intensity, and more.”

What made “the blob” devastating was that it nearly wiped out the cod population. The number of cod “plunged by 70% in 2 years,” according to Science Magazine.

Several other animals died because of the increase of toxic algae and “fish, bird, and whale numbers have yet to recover,” the magazine reported.

Tufted puffins, baleen whales and murres were all animal populations particularly hard hit by the heatwave, CNN reported. About 62,000 murres are dead or dying because the extreme increases in water warming caused food sources to die out for certain animals, according to CNN.

“A massive number of birds have been found dead on beaches, starved” as a result of the heatwave, according to the National Parks Service. They believe that the drastic change in water temperature contributed to many animals dying because “warmer water is poorer in nutrients and holds less oxygen than colder water.”

Although “the blob” and other marine heatwaves have left a negative impact on marine animals, some expect that ocean warming will accelerate and continue trending towards 0.6 degrees Celsius to 2 degrees Celsius. If this is the case, it will likely lead to economic losses in industries like fishing, ecotourism and aquaculture.

“Human-caused global warming made these events at least 20 times more likely,” Science Magazine said. Congresswoman Katherine Clark tweeted, “Say it with me: #ClimateChange is an existential threat.” She joins a long list of others that support science and believe that global warming is a threat.

There are also those that believe global warming is a hoax like President Donald Trump. He has insinuated in the past that climate change is nonexistent and even pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord in 2017.

If countries do not act fast to reduce their carbon footprints, more “plague, famine, pestilence and death” could spread as it did in the northern Pacific Ocean during “the blob.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Ticker

Comments (0)

All The Ticker Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *