Water And Oceanography

Ocean Heat Content



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If you have pulled your head out from under a rock sometime in the last few years, you may have realized that there has been much fuss about this thing called “global warming”, and more specifically, it’s effect on ocean temperature. An increase in ocean heat content is a serious threat, and should be given much attention. The ocean’s temperature is extremely important to a number of factors that affect our everyday life:

* It effects fish lives

Fish are cold blooded animals. This is no criticism of their character, but a fact about the way their body system works. They cannot regulate their body’s temperature and must rely on a steady water temperature around them. Slight variations of temperatures, such as those caused by an increase in ocean heat content, can make fish become sick and die. This is a big problem because fish (especially those in tropical areas) are already having a hard time dealing with pollution changes and many more are becoming endangered.

*It can cause changes in water level

In increase in ocean heat content causes icebergs and glaciers to melt, including those in the Arctic Circle and Antarctica. Not only is this bad news for polar bears and penguins, but the melting of glaciers and rise in the water level affects all of us. The more the oceans rise, the less sunlight that plants below the surface get. When these plants die, they stop producing oxygen. Scientists believe that over 50% of the world’s oxygen comes from organisms living in the ocean. What’s more, coastal cities and towns can become damaged by increased flooding due to rising water levels. A large portion of us would be affected, as 50% of Americans live within 50 miles of a coast.

*It can affect air temperatures

Heat from warmer waters can significantly modify air temperature around them. Ocean heat content is a direct contribution to the formation of hurricanes and tropical storms. Oceans, due to their high specific heat capacity, can help to regulate the temperatures of land around them. This is the main reason why peninsulas and coastal areas have milder seasons.

The Argo program is one of the ways that scientists measure ocean heat content. It consists of over 3,000 free-drifting floats. These floats measure ocean temperature and salinity then relays the data back to scientists and their website, found here. These floats are programmed to periodically float down 2,000 meters and back up, measuring ocean temperature and salinity the whole way.

In the end, scientists have concluded the ocean is heating up. It has heated up about .1 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 30 years. This may not seem significant, but it is important, because it only takes small changes of temperature to kill fish, melt icebergs, and affect weather. We must do what we can in order to protect against this rise of temperature, which has been associated with greenhouse gasses. The whole world will be affected by ocean temperatures, so we must all do our part.

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