Oceans and Climate

Oceans and Climate

Research under this theme focuses on the role of the oceans in Earth’s climate, and on how our changing climate will affect the ocean and ocean ecosystems. The ocean stores about 50 times more carbon than the atmosphere, and plays a fundamental role in governing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. This role is sensitive to changes in sea surface temperature, the acidity of the sea surface, and the growth of microscopic plants and animals (the plankton). As the ocean warms in response to climate change, we are seeing changes in the structure of ecosystems (e.g. species that prefer cooler water move to higher latitudes; ecosystem changes associated with a reduction in Arctic sea ice) and in the water properties that govern or indicate the health of ecosystems (e.g. the amount of dissolved oxygen in the sea). Sea level is also rising, driven partly by the warming (therefore expanding) ocean, and also by melting land-ice. 

Key research themes include:

  • Long-term predictions of Earth’s climate driven by ocean-atmosphere interactions in response to CO2 emissions.
  • Changes in Arctic ecosystems driven by warming and a reduction in sea ice.
  • Changes in coastal ocean dissolved oxygen and ecosystem health in a warming world.
  • Links between tides, mixing, plankton ecosystems and fisheries.