Global warming caused by human activities that emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide has raised the average global temperature by about 1°F (0.6°C) over the past century.
In the oceans, this change has only been about 0.18°F (0.1°C). This warming has occurred from the surface to a depth of about 2,300 feet (700 meters), where most marine life thrives.
Coral and other organisms are affected by temperature change. Krill, ate by whales, may be an extremely important link at the base of the food chain. Krill produce in small numbers when the ocean temperatures rise. The cascading effect can be a problem for all matters of sea life.
When water heats up, it expands. Sea levels will rise which in turn will cause more powerful storm surges that can devastate low-lying areas. Weather experts report that we are seeing the effects of the higher ocean temperatures in the form of stronger and more frequent hurricanes such as the most recent Hurricane Sandy which devastated the Eastern sea board.
Warmer sea temperatures are also associated with the spread of invasive species and marine diseases. The evolution of a stable marine habitat is dependent upon myriad factors, including water temperature. If an ecosystem becomes warmer, it can create an opportunity where outside species or bacteria can suddenly thrive where they were once excluded. This can lead to forced migrations and even species extinctions.
Scientists worry that warmer sea water could interrupt NASA’s analogy of an ocean conveyor belt which could be super serious. This is a system of global currents that is responsible for regulating Earth’s temperature. Warmer sea waters are not helping by melting the polar ice caps. Its collapse could trigger catastrophically rapid climate changes such as an ice age. A global ocean circulation between deep, colder water and warmer, surface water strongly influences regional climates around the world.
In many ways we are working, although not fast enough, to eliminate our usage of greenhouse gases to stop the process.
At this point it would take decades to reverse the effects we already created.
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