The Continued Decline of Ocean Memory

The Continued Decline of Ocean Memory

A new study published in Science Advances shows that climate change is causing the sea to lose its memory, an annual measurement that refers to "the persistence of ocean conditions.” It is greatly dependent on the thickness of the upper-ocean mixed layer -- which includes where air and water meet. Global warming is thinning that surface, weakening ocean memory and according to the study, reducing scientists' ability to "[predict] sea surface thermal conditions, which may present previously unknown challenges for predicting climate extremes and managing marine biological resources under climate change.”

Why This Matters

Ocean memory is a useful tool to help scientists make predictions about ocean conditions, so its depletion will make fluctuations harder to track. This memory loss is just one way that global warming is affecting marine life. Last year marked the sixth consecutive year that the earth’s oceans reached (increasingly) record-high temperatures. The long-term consequences are yet to be determined, but a recent study found that global warming in the oceans could cause a mass extinction event in which one-third of all marine animals could disappear.

DW: Higher temperatures and plastic pollution threaten oceans, February 11, 2022.

TED: The Ocean's Ingenious Climate Solutions | Susan Ruffo, March 13, 2022.

The Ocean’s Resources

Although the ocean is a major casualty of climate change, it may also be a key to reducing global warming’s effects. Another study, published earlier this year, found that "More than 90% of the heat generated over the past 50 years has been absorbed by the oceans, temporarily helping spare humanity, and other land-based species, from temperatures that would already be catastrophic,” the Guardian reports.

Moreover, ocean conservation has been a path for countries to rebuild their economies after the COVID-19 pandemic and create low-carbon growth simultaneously. Decarbonizing ocean industries like shipping, scaling up offshore renewable energy, and promoting sustainable fishing practices could be great ways of creating "blue economies.”

Down To Earth: Marine Heatwaves | Climate change is causing heatwaves within the oceans, May 5, 2022.

UNCC: The Nature Conservancy | Blue carbon, December 7, 2020.

Caspian Report: The Ocean Economy will eclipse $3 trillion by 2030, July 15, 2020.