There is increasing evidence of climate change: rising air temperatures with the last 10 years being the warmest since 1850, reducing snow line in the northern hemisphere, reduction in summer sea ice in the Arctic and warming of the upper ocean. Along with these physical changes, there are implied biological and chemical changes, ranging from earlier spring leaf unfolding and bird migration, and to coral reefs being damaged by warming. Future predictions of climate change include rising sea level and increased acidification of the oceans.

The challenges for the scientific community are:

  • to unravel the signals of climate change, understanding their causes, and at the same time providing a critical view as to which signals are robust given the substantial natural variability.
  • to assess the likely impacts for society, ranging from coastal defences, renewable energy, and human and animal health.

The role of the ocean and coastal seas is particularly important for climate change. The ocean plays a crucial role in storing and redistributing heat and carbon over the globe:

  • More than 80% of the heat added to the climate system is absorbed by the ocean
  • There is more than 50 times as much carbon stored in the ocean, as in the atmosphere
  • The biological cycling in the ocean provides a long term drawdown of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

In the shelf and coastal seas, there is particular concern about amplified signals of climate change:

  • Sea level change in the coastal seas can be much larger than in the open ocean
  • There is a clear signal of coastal warming in the shelf seas
  • There is the potential for rapid changes in the ecosystem including the invasion of new species

At Liverpool, there is extensive expertise in both the University and the NERC National Oceanography Centre in Marine Sciences and Climate Change. The aim of the Research Centre is to bring this community together, discussing emerging research ideas and laying a strategic foundation for future work.

Flowing meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet (Copyright NASA)

Evidence for climate change from NASA

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change