Ocean Warming Is Changing The Relationship Coastal Communities Have With The Ocean

Ocean Warming Is Changing The Relationship Coastal Communities Have With The Ocean Sunset off the coast of Newfoundland. Michel Rathwell/flickr, CC BY-SA

Climate change has made record-breaking heatwaves all the more likely, both on land and beneath the ocean’s surface. As the world’s ocean sucks up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — as well as most of the additional heat being trapped by global warming — it is undergoing some significant changes.

Marine heatwaves — prolonged periods of unusually warm ocean temperatures — are one of those changes. These extreme temperatures are increasing in frequency around the globe and wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems.

Ocean Warming Is Changing The Relationship Coastal Communities Have With The Ocean Yearly count of marine heatwave days from 1900 to 2016, as a global average. Eric Oliver

As an oceanographer, I study the many ways oceans change — from week-to-week, year-to-year and, of course, over decades and centuries — to better understand the changes that are underway and the far-reaching impacts they may have on marine ecosystems and the communities that rely on them.

Personal connections

I’m of mixed settler and Indigenous descent. On one side, my roots are in the Inuit of northern Labrador, and as Inuit our relationship with the ocean is of paramount importance. The ocean provides our food, our highways and our connection to nature.

Over the past 40 years, September Arctic sea ice extent has fallen by about half, and this year it is headed for a low that runs close to the record set in 2012. For Labrador Inuit, this means the ice is becoming less predictable. What would a spring without sea ice look like? What would it mean?

It would mean being unable to travel across the sea ice. It would mean being unable to access wild foods, like seals, and being more reliant on over-priced and under-nourishing “store food.” It would mean an inability to reach culturally important places that lie far from communities. It would mean a significant change in lifestyle — and one that I would describe as a kind of cultural trauma.

On the other side, I’m linked to settlers and immigrants to Nova Scotia’s South Shore, a place economically and culturally linked to the sea. What do warmer water temperatures — as much as 4C in Atlantic Canada’s oceans — mean for coastal fishers?

It would mean an uncertain future to say the least. Will the fisheries that support communities there, like the American lobster or the snow crab, remain viable in the decades to come? The answer to that is not clear. Is there a fishery that might replace these in a drastically warmer future climate? We don’t yet know.

Ocean temperature extremes

Marine heatwaves occur in different places at different times, yet can have dramatic impacts on marine ecology and fisheries. They can occur at any time of year, yet often have the greatest impacts during the already-warm summer season.

Ocean Warming Is Changing The Relationship Coastal Communities Have With The Ocean Screenshot from live marine heatwave tracker (marineheatwaves.org/tracker) showing the global distribution of marine heatwaves on Mar. 28, 2019. Eric Oliver

For example, a marine heatwave in the northwest Atlantic Ocean during the summer of 2012 raised ocean temperatures 1-3C above the 1981-2011 average. The warmer waters pushed American lobsters to move into shallower coastal areas in greater numbers and earlier than usual in the Gulf of Maine. This had economic implications for fishers as lobster prices dropped, and increased political tensions between the United States and Canada.

The scientific understanding of marine heatwaves is still at the early stages. We have a lot of work ahead of us to understand their variability, causes and processes. This information can help us understand the historical record, as well as which regions may be able to forecast high-impact marine heatwaves in the future and their potential risks to marine fisheries and ecosystems.

Working towards the future

My team at Dalhousie University, which includes graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, is tackling a number of questions on this front. We are looking into the historical record of marine heatwaves in the Scotian Shelf (southwest of Nova Scotia) to better understand how past temperature swings are linked with historic fisheries there. We are digging deeper into the physical processes and statistical properties underlying marine heatwaves so that they may be better predicted. And we are working on computer simulations of the ocean so that we can investigate past and future scenarios. We also hope to bridge the gaps between climate science and the fishing industries, and between basic research and practical applications.

Finally, I see a need to mobilize knowledge between scientists and communities — in both directions. Local people are part of the solution. They can be involved in identifying the research questions for scientists to study and evaluate proposed fixes. Community-based monitoring, citizen science and partnerships between academia and communities have had success in the past in getting community members and coastal fishers involved in making measurements of the ocean and working directly with ocean scientists.

I have launched several projects to make this link in my home region of northern Labrador, including community-based monitoring of ocean temperatures from the sea ice, deploying ocean drifters along the coast and documenting local ocean knowledge in order to integrate it alongside scientific measurements.

Ocean Warming Is Changing The Relationship Coastal Communities Have With The Ocean Community member from Nain, Nunatsiavut deploying a conductivity-temperature-depth instrument through the coastal sea ice (left). Documenting community knowledge of ocean currents and sea ice in Hopedale, Nunatsiavut (right). Eric Oliver, Author provided

The world’s ocean is changing. As scientists we can focus our research on trying to understand and solve the problems of ocean change. As people and communities, we can provide knowledge and guidance to the scientific community on those problems of greatest concern — and help solve them together.

About The Author

Eric Oliver, Assistant Professor of Physical Oceanography, Dalhousie University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities

by Peter Plastrik , John Cleveland
1610918495The future of our cities is not what it used to be. The modern-city model that took hold globally in the twentieth century has outlived its usefulness. It cannot solve the problems it helped to create—especially global warming. Fortunately, a new model for urban development is emerging in cities to aggressively tackle the realities of climate change. It transforms the way cities design and use physical space, generate economic wealth, consume and dispose of resources, exploit and sustain the natural ecosystems, and prepare for the future. Available On Amazon

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

by Elizabeth Kolbert
1250062187Over the last half-billion years, there have been Five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human. Available On Amazon

Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats

by Gwynne Dyer
1851687181Waves of climate refugees. Dozens of failed states. All-out war. From one of the world’s great geopolitical analysts comes a terrifying glimpse of the strategic realities of the near future, when climate change drives the world’s powers towards the cut-throat politics of survival. Prescient and unflinching, Climate Wars will be one of the most important books of the coming years. Read it and find out what we’re heading for. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

LATEST VIDEOS

300 Million Face Severe Risk of Climate-Fueled Coastal Flooding by 2050
by Democracy Now!
As a shocking new report finds that many coastal cities will be flooded by rising sea levels by 2050, Chile’s President…
Climate Warning: California Continues To Burn, Data Estimates Of Global Flooding
by MSNBC
Ben Strauss, CEO and Chief Scientist of Climate Central joins MTP Daily to discuss alarming new information about…
Stanford Climate Solutions
by Stanford
Climate change has brought us to a defining moment in human history.
Buying Renewable Energy From Your Neighbor
by NBC News
Brooklyn Microgrid, a project of parent company LO3 Energy, is looking to disrupt the more than 100-year-old energy…
Debate Over Pipelines Clouds Concern For Climate Change
by Global News
Climate experts are warning that Canada shouldn't ignore the wildfire crisis in California
How Climate Change Affects Wildfires
by NBC News
NYU environmental studies professor David Kanter explains how climate change is creating the perfect conditions for…
Rice Bowl Of Malaysia Threatened By Climate Change
by The Star Online
Kedah is known as the country’s “Rice Bowl,” and it is especially suitable for the growing of the grain.
Maine Cow's Seaweed Diet Research Could Help Climate Change
by News Center Maine
Research in Maine will measure the methane released by cows who have been fed a seaweed diet.

LATEST ARTICLES

Why The Global Climate Treaty Is Not Working
Why The Global Climate Treaty Is Not Working
by Tim Radford
Three out of four nations have yet to start to honour the global climate treaty. The world waits, the seas go on rising…
Why Taxes Are Better Than Bans For Keeping Homeowners From Rebuilding In Fire-plagued Areas
Why Taxes Are Better Than Bans For Keeping Homeowners From Rebuilding In Fire-plagued Areas
by Alexander Smith
Almost 200,000 Californians have been ordered to evacuate as ferocious winds drove several wildfires near Los Angeles,…
How Will 20 Years Of Houston’s Growth Affect Flooding?
How Will 20 Years Of Houston’s Growth Affect Flooding?
by InnerSelf Staff
A new way to show exactly how much the city of Houston has changed in the last two decades gives a dramatic visual…
Why Australia Could Fall Apart Under Climate Change
Why Australia Could Fall Apart Under Climate Change
by Ross Garnaut
Four years ago in December 2015, every member of the United Nations met in Paris and agreed to hold global temperature…
How Greenhouse Gases Drive Australia's Bushfires
How Greenhouse Gases Drive Australia's Bushfires
by Andrew Burgess
Australia’s bushfires are feeding on heat from the climate change happening in the tropics, but its government doesn’t…
How Children Born Now Face Multiple Climate Health Risks
How Children Born Now Face Multiple Climate Health Risks
by Tim Radford
Multiple climate health risks threaten today’s babies. They may grow up hungrier, more diseased and facing more…
This Is What Australia's Growing Cities Need To Do To Avoid Running Dry
This Is What Australia's Growing Cities Need To Do To Avoid Running Dry
by Ian Wright
The increasing thirst of Australia’s biggest cities routinely exceeds our capacity to rely on rainfall for drinking…
Evangelicals In Brazil See Abuse Of God's Earth As A Sin – But Will They Fight To Save The Amazon?
Evangelicals In Brazil See Abuse Of God's Earth As A Sin – But Will They Fight To Save The Amazon?
by Amy Erica Smith
When the Brazilian city of São Paulo abruptly went dark at midday on Aug. 19, there was talk of the Apocalypse – not…