OBSERVER: Ocean warming, ocean extremes, their socio-economic impact and more! Read all about it in the 6th Copernicus Ocean State Report

OBSERVER: Ocean warming, ocean extremes, their socio-economic impact and more! Read all about it in the 6th Copernicus Ocean State Report

OBSERVER: Ocean warming, ocean extremes, their socio-economic impact and more! Read all about it in the 6th Copernicus Ocean State Report

Thu, 20/10/2022 – 14:06

Why the ocean matters

As one of our planet’s most precious common goods, the ocean plays a major role in the environment, climate and economy. For example, an increase of a few degrees in the temperature of the ocean can contribute to sea level rise and extreme weather events, destroying livelihoods and impacting invaluable ecosystems by, for instance, fuelling coral bleaching. The high stakes associated with such challenges have led EU policy makers to continue to push for a science and evidence-based approach to ensuring healthy and sustainable oceans. Whether it be through Horizon Europe research and innovation programme’s emphasis on ‘restoring the world’s oceans and waters’ or explicitly linking the protection and restoration of marine ecosystems to achieving its ambition to becoming climate-neutral by 2050, it is clear that improving our knowledge of our oceans is of the utmost importance.

Authoritative marine data for informed policymaking

Implemented by Mercator Ocean, the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service (CMEMS) is entrusted with providing all interested stakeholders with highly accurate and state-of-the-art data on the state of the world’s oceans and waters. Thanks to data captured by in situ measurements and the Copernicus Sentinel satellites (i.e. currently Sentinel-1, Sentinel-2, Sentinel-3 and Sentinel-6), CMEMS has imposed itself as the go-to expert to help us better understand marine data, monitoring changes and forecasting outlooks. Over the years, it has developed high-level Ocean State Reports (OSRs) which support EU policies and decision makers.

The Copernicus Ocean State Report is an annual publication established in 2014 by the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service which provides a scientific overview of the current conditions, natural and anthropogenic variations and ongoing changes in the global ocean and European regional seas. This year’s sixth edition of the OSR conveys essential information on the Blue (physical), White (sea ice) and Green (biological and biogeochemical) ocean for the aforementioned ocean and seas over the 1993–2020 period with a special focus on the year 2020. The report and summary describe the state of the ocean and significant trends using a wide range of analyses, models, information and data particularly drawing from the Copernicus Marine Ocean Monitoring Indicators. The report also highlights the new tools and methods developed by CMEMS to monitor and report on the ocean. Finally, the report explains how ocean data can support the adaptation to changes across the Blue, Green, and White ocean.

Key takeaways for the Blue ocean: warming waters and rising sea levels

Recent decades have seen significant increases in trends related to sea level rise and sea surface temperature. Since 1993, sea level has risen by more than 9 centimetres, with a trend of 3.5 cm +/- 0.4 cm/year from 1993 to 2021. This phenomenon can be partly attributed to the warming of the ocean also referred to as ocean thermal expansion. In fact, sea surface temperature has risen approximately 0.43°C worldwide since 1993. In the winter of 2019/2020 alone, the Baltic Sea saw unusually high winter heatwaves, which caused the lowest recorded ice extent since 1720. Moreover, the Mediterranean Sea experienced two severe storms in 2020, which caused increased ocean currents, sea level and wave height and led to significant damage to the Spanish coast and Greek peninsula.

Global sea surface temperature increase from 1993 to 2020, following the increasing trend of 0.016°C +/- 0.001°C per year. Source: Copernicus Marine Service, Mercator Ocean International

Key takeaways for the White ocean: ice loss and record low sea ice extent

Sea ice levels have been fluctuating drastically in the last couple of decades. In 2020, Arctic sea ice levels dropped to one the lowest levels since the 1970s. The downwards trend continued the following year with some of the lowest sea ice levels ever observed. Down south, trends in Antarctic sea ice have been more volatile. While levels remained stable in 2020 and 2021, a new analysis showed that it reached a record low in 2022.

Average sea ice extent from 1993 to 2014 (light green with opacity) compared with the sea ice extent from 2021 (blue with opacity), showing the severe decline of sea ice in 2021. Source: Copernicus Marine Service, Mercator Ocean International

Key takeaways for the Green ocean: an increase in CO2 absorption leads to higher ocean acidification levels

As one of the lungs of the planet, the ocean produces at least 50% of the world’s oxygen. On the flipside, increased amounts of carbon originating mainly from various human activities have been absorbed by the ocean between 1985 and 2020. More CO2 in the ocean leads to a lower pH and to an increase in acidification levels. In fact, ocean acidification has increased by roughly 30% since the industrial revolution, thereby making the ocean less hospitable to many forms of marine life.

Caption: Decreasing surface seawater pH (ocean acidification) from 1985 to 2020, following the trend of -0.0016 +/- 0.0006 yr-1. Source: Copernicus Marine Service, Mercator Ocean International

New tools and approaches

New tools and approaches were used in 2020 to monitor the ocean with higher accuracy and are discussed in the report. These included a new set of satellite-based indicators to help map eutrophication and support European activities for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The report notes that ocean data is essential to monitor the health of marine environments. Data provides the cornerstone for sustainable ocean stewardship – how ocean resources are managed, used, and conserved. Using ocean data can also help achieve the UN SGDs and help us create the “ocean we want” as part of the UN Ocean Decade.

Ocean Monitoring Indicators and ocean stewardship backed by science can help us better understand and improve sustainable ocean development, relating SDG 14 to the other 16 SDGs. An interdisciplinary, cross-sectorial approach will help achieve a healthier, safer, and better protected ocean as part of the UN 2030 sustainable development agenda. This data was adapted to provide a better overview of achieving ocean sustainability from Mercator Ocean International, the Ocean University Initiative, the Ocean Conservation Trust, the 2017 UN Ocean Conference, and the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Source: Copernicus Marine Service, Mercator Ocean International.

Using satellite and in situ data, the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service is depicting the story of a changing ocean, one “in flux and in need of protection” according to Pierre Bahurel, Director General of Mercator Ocean International.

Read more:

Article on the release on the Copernicus Marine site here
Full Ocean State Report 6 here
Summary of the Ocean State Report 6 here
Presentation of the Ocean State Report activity and the findings of the 6th edition: here
Thu, 20/10/2022 – 12:00

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