Increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere are impacting ocean systems in various ways. These pages detail how climate change is causing impacts to ocean chemistry (acidification) as well as increasing sea levels on average and rising sea surface temperatures, leading to stronger storms.
Key changes to ocean systems include:
Acidification – the process by which increasing CO2 levels causes decreasing pH levels in the ocean;
Rising Sea Levels – water volumes are increasing due to melting glaciers and warming temperatures, causing observed sea levels to rise; and
Strengthening Storms – hurricanes and tropical storms are becoming stronger due to increased energy from warmer sea surface temperatures.
Additionally, oceans play a critical roll in the carbon cycle and regulate atmospheric carbon levels. Were it not for ocean uptake of CO2, atmospheric levels would be increasing at an even greater rate than they are now. Because ocean-carbon uptake is a slow, long-term process, it is not discussed in great detailed here. Visit NOAA’s Educational Resources to learn more. Coastal resource management also offers opportunities to yield mitigation benefits from marine systems that function as carbon sinks.
Learn more about how oceans influence climate globally in this video from NASA:
Given the importance and interconnected nature of land and marine resources, approaches that acknowledge and leverage opportunities for enhanced management, mitigation, and adaptation planning may support existing conservation objectives and the long-term stewardship goals of the land trust community.
The world’s surface oceans are tightly linked with the atmosphere and exchange huge amounts of CO2 each year. This exchange, in part, helps to regulate the planet’s atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The ocean holds about 50 times more carbon than the atmosphere, and while the two-way carbon exchange can occur quickly between the ocean’s surface waters and the atmosphere, carbon may also be stored for centuries at the deepest ocean depths.
Did you know land trusts are working to mitigate climate change? Learn more.