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Ocean Warming Now at Dangerous Level; Wreaking Havoc in Marine Life, Human Health

Sep 07, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

For so long, the world's seas have gotten the brunt of the heat -- literally. Climate change has heated the ocean to dangerously high temperatures and a recent analysis compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the disastrous consequences to come, from super storms to change in marine life behavior.

The comprehensive paper, entitled "Explaining ocean warming: causes, scale, effects and consequences," described the swift warming of the seas as "the greatest hidden challenge of our generation."

The mega-study, which included 80 scientists from 12 nations, expects the mean global temperature of the ocean to rise by one to four degrees by the year 2100, according to a report from Haaretz. The question is, why should land-locked humans care about ocean warming?

Migration, Death of Entire Species

In response to the discomfort of the rising temperature and the consequently dying corals, marine life is moving steadily towards the poles. The study revealed that species such as jellyfish, turtles, seabirds and planktons are heading northwards by up to 10 degrees latitude.

A report from National Geographic pointed out that this migration has far-reaching effects on the human population by destabilizing fisheries, taking away communities' livelihood and food.

Some species don't get the chance to seek cooler climate as climate change has also caused the disappearance of many creatures including emperor penguins, which lost 50 percent of their population; rockhopper penguins in Campbell Island dipped by 96 percent; ivy gull lost 70 percent; and Arctic skua breeding numbers in Scotland decreased 74 percent from 1986 to 2011.

Faster Spread of Zika and Malaria

It's not just marine life experiencing decimation in the face of ocean warming as human health also remains precarious.

Risk of illnesses spreading quickly may also be attributed to this phenomenon as pathogens proliferate much more quickly in warmer climes. Parasite-borne diseases like Zika and malaria are only two of the examples given in the Haaretz report, but enough to illustrate the dangers of the rising temperatures pose to human health.

Super Storms to Become More Frequent

Hotter waters lead to more evaporation, which must eventually come down in the form of precipitation. As a consequence, ocean warming is resulting in a frequency in destructive typhoons. The number of severe hurricanes have increased by up to 30 percent.

What Can the World Do?

Greg Stone, executive vice president at the nonprofit organization Conservation International, told National Geographic the world needs to start by stopping carbon pollution and creating protected marine areas.

Some recommendations by the IUCN researchers included planning for the imminent blow to regional economies.

Read:
Alert! Super Typhoons Becoming More Intense in Asian Countries, New Study Finds
Southern Ocean Becoming Less Salty

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