Oceans – and global warming

In 2022, oceans were the hottest ever recorded. More than 90 per cent of the heat that greenhouse gases trap ends up absorbed in the oceans. Because sea surface temperatures significantly influence global weather, the warming of the oceans is “supercharging” extreme weather. More moisture in the air from hurricanes and typhoons causes intense rains and flooding, but also larger and more rapid intensification of hurricanes. Until recently, colder water from deeper ocean layers would have tempered a hurricane’s escalation.

Research released by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this month show that the extreme weather events of 2022 were intensified by global warming and climate change. This international team of scientists said, “The Earth’s energy and water cycles have been profoundly altered due to the emission of greenhouse gases by human activities, driving pervasive changes in Earth’s climate system.” They added, “Measuring the oceans is the most accurate way of determining how out of balance our planet is.”

And they conclude that this warming of oceans, with its effects on weather and ocean life, will continue to increase unless we manage to reach net zero emissions.

• Keep waste out of the water system. All water on Earth is connected. Water down the drain or run-off from the yard ends up in rivers and eventually into the ocean. Pesticides, fertilizers, cleaning products and other chemicals reduce oxygen in the oceans, killing sea life. Even manure in the garden contributes to algae blooms in water systems that disrupt the natural balance.

• Reduce pollutants by choosing non-toxic chemicals and disposing of chemicals properly.

• Use as little fertilizer as possible.

• Reduce waste by cutting down on packaging and what is thrown away. What ends up in the landfill contributes to global warming and leaches into groundwater. Garbage is also a hazard for marine animals that try to eat or become entangled in it.

• Be informed about seafood options. Choose from sustainable seafood guides and eco-friendly fisheries.

• Boat responsibly, adhering to speed limits and “no wake” zones. Anchor away from animal habitat and endangered vegetation.
• Strictly follow catch limits when fishing. Practice catch and release.

• Choose low-phosphate detergents and non-toxic cleaning products. See Consumer Reports’ Greener Choices. Baking soda and vinegar are options.

• Avoid souvenirs and jewellery made from marine animals or animal parts, including shells and especially coral.

• If you have a salt-water aquarium, ask where and how the animals you buy were collected. Look for evidence of aquatic stewardship in pet stores and ask for animals that were carefully harvested and well cared for. And never release an unwanted pet into the ocean or any waterway. Organisms that don’t belong can crowd out the locals and disrupt the ecosystem.

• Reduce your carbon footprint. All fossil fuels burned (oil, gas, coal) add carbon dioxide to the air and contribute to warming oceans, also increasing acidification that makes it hard for corals and clams to build skeletons and shells.

• Power down. Try drying laundry on a clothesline or rack. Walk, bike, carpool to work or school. Replace light bulbs and older appliances with newer, more efficient models.

• Switch sources from burning fossil fuels, whenever possible. There are subsidized alternative energy programs that may work for you.

• Teach your children about climate change. A fun, informative and interactive resource is found at: climatekids.nasa.gov.

• Preparation for climate change includes readying for heavy rains and potential floods. What are some things you can do to reduce property damage from high winds and heavy rains? What about planting trees to support soil and reduce mudslides?

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