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How climate change is impacting our Oceans

“Many people look at the Ocean and they see water. it’s not just water - Its alive.” - Sylvia Earle

The Ocean is as enigmatic as it is vast, teeming with life beyond your wildest imagination and home to some of nature's most extraordinary inventions from beings that make their own light to shapeshifting, color and texture altering critters. Researchers and scientists believe that “the Mariana Trench’s microscopic inhabitants might even shed light on the emergence of life on Earth. That right there is one of the many virtues the Ocean holds - secrets that could be the quintessential “blueprints” of life.

World Ocean Day

Unfortunately, these very oceans are facing tremendous challenges that are altering its way of life and will inevitably affect not just the creatures that inhabit it but also those who depend on it and planet Earth itself.

This is why, every year on the 8th of June, people from all over the world come together to take action to protect the one thing that connects us all, our Oceans. The concept was first proposed in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro as a way to celebrate our world’s shared ocean and our connection to the sea, and to raise awareness about the crucial role the ocean plays in our lives and the important ways people can help protect it.

Let's start with -The Oceans hold about 96.5% of all Earth’s water. Oceans cover more than 70% of the surface of our planet and with that being said, it should come as no surprise that all life depends on the wellbeing of these all-encompassing giants. With at least 300,000 (228,450 known species) that live underwater, these creatures, no matter how big or small, play a significant role in maintaining various ecosystems of our oceans, like circulation of nutrients from the surface to the seabed and vice versa. We depend on this abundance of biodiversity for nutrition, sustenance and livelihoods.

This brings us to the important role our Oceans play which is climate regulation. In addition to bringing rain and circulating moisture into our atmosphere, oceans absorb large amounts of heat from the sun. Through ocean currents, this heat is circulated and transported around the world; north and south, towards the poles. This happens through forces acting on the water, such as difference in salinity, the waves breaking, temperature, the wind or even the Coriolis effect. As the horizontal currents are moving south or northwards, they carry with them cool or warm water over an extended distance. The displaced water affects the air, by warming or cooling it, thereby transferring the same effect to the nearby land surface over which it blows.

World Ocean Day

Human interference and climate change have created a terrible domino effect on our oceans - one catastrophe spilling over into another. Over the past century the surface temperature of Oceans rose at an average rate of 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, this was the direct result of the rising level of greenhouse gases. This warmer water evaporates quickly and feeds the clouds above, leading to ferocious storms and torrential rainfall. This is the same reason behind the occurrences of enormous and disastrous cyclones that have affected millions around the world, from people to habitats and infrastructure, in fact, tropical cyclones remain the deadliest natural climate hazard. During the last two centuries, tropical cyclones have been responsible for the deaths of about 1.9 million people worldwide. It is estimated that 10,000 people per year perish due to tropical cyclones.

We can see the causal effects of global heating through the cyclones we witnessed last year and this year as well. Prior to cyclone Amphan, the Bay of Bengal recorded a temperature between 30-33 degrees Celsius and likewise, the Arabian Sea recorded 30-32 degrees Celsius before cyclone Nisarga. This year Cyclone Tauktae was reported the most severe of cyclones (166-220 kilometres per hour) to reach very close to Mumbai in the last 130 years. Cyclone Tauktae followed the trend of unusual and unpredictable cyclones like Ockhi, which claimed lives of over 200 people in 2017 and underwent a rapid intensification, making it difficult to forecast its severity. What was intriguing about the Tauktae cyclone was that it remained strong even after hitting land. This was because of the warm ocean and the desert outflow from the excessive heating in neighbouring countries of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. These conditions were also responsible for the recent string of cloud bursts in Uttarakhand. Along with clones, rising temperatures also affect vegetation and reef-building species such as corals and mangroves, which protect coastlines from erosion and sea-level rise. Rising sea levels and erosion will particularly affect low-lying island countries, destroying housing and infrastructure and forcing people to relocate. Parts of Tokyo for instance sank by 4 metres during the 20th century, with 2 metres or more of sinking reported in Shanghai, Bangkok, and New Orleans. This process is known as subsidence. In particular, 'subsiding cities contain more than 150 million people in the coastal zone – that’s roughly 20% of people in the world who live by the sea.

World Ocean Day

“The Ocean, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.”- Jacques Yves Cousteau

For a healthy planet, we need healthy Oceans and every individual has a role to play in protecting, restoring and rejuvenating this magnificent force of life. Starting with our carbon footprint, begin making smart choices when it comes to our lifestyle; commuting, food choices and consumer habits. You can help by encouraging others to respect the marine environment, participate in local beach cleanups or support organizations that are working to protect Oceans. Raise awareness and bring to light the state of our oceans with friends and family. There are around 7.674 billion people on our planet and if each of us contributes by changing our habits and lifestyle we will definitely make a difference, remember - “Little drops of water make the mighty ocean.”

- Niharika Shetty

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