(CN) — While studying how the climate crisis may affect the Earth’s oceans in years to come, researchers revealed Monday that more than half of our oceans have already been altered by greenhouse gas emissions.
In a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, scientists found that up to 55% of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans have temperatures and salt levels that differ wildly from previous data going back to the 1980s.
The researchers determined more of the ocean’s underwater and surface areas will continue to change in the coming decades due to pollution, with up to an estimated 80% of affected ocean areas by 2080. While scientists have previously examined changes to surface temperatures in the oceans, doctoral student and lead author Yona Silvy at Sorbonne University said her colleagues also looked at deeper areas.
“We were interested in whether the levels of temperatures and salt were great enough to overcome natural variability in these deeper areas, that is if they had risen or fallen higher than they ever would during the normal peaks and troughs,” Silvy said in a statement. “This affects global ocean circulation, sea level rise and poses a threat to human societies and ecosystems.”
Due to the difficulties in observing deep areas of the oceans, Silvy and her team created model simulations to help determine the role that human-made pollution has in affecting temperature and salt level. Professor Eric Guilyardi of the University of Reading said it was important to discover how climate change alters deeper waters.
“We have been detecting ocean temperatures change at the surface due to climate change for several decades now, but changes in vast areas of the ocean, particularly deeper parts, are much more challenging to detect,” he said.
Using their modeling, the scientists not only found that up to 55% of the oceans were already affected by climate change, they also found more rapid changes in oceans located in the Southern Hemisphere.
Besides the environmental damage these changes can cause, including the loss of certain species of oceanic life, widespread changes in the oceans are likely to cause economic harm to fisheries.
The research team said more research is needed in the Southern Hemisphere in order to accurately gauge how climate change is affecting Earth’s largest bodies of water and understand how that can affect the rest of the world.