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Icy meltwater pooling in Arctic Ocean: A wild card in climate change scenarios

t mix by 10 to 15 days.

Warming seawater

Warming is the feature most commonly associated with climate change and, in fact, sea surface temperatures are rising around Europe and throughout the world. The average global increase is 0.004 degrees Celsius per year. The annual rate is 0.002 for the North Atlantic Ocean; for the Black Sea it's 0.003 degrees; for the North and Mediterranean Seas, 0.004 degrees; and for the Baltic, 0.006.

While there has been significant variability over the past century, major warming has occurred since the 1980s, says Jun She of the Danish Meteorological Institute, with computer models forecasting a rise of 2C or more by 2100.

Britain's Hadley Centre modelling indicates that Europe's northwest coastal shelf regions off Greenland will warm substantially more than the open-ocean by between 1.5C and 4C, depending on location.

Smaller-scale modeling suggests an annual warming of 2C to 4C on the Baltic Sea surface, 1.7C in the North Sea and up to 5C for the Bay of Biscay.

Souring seas

Some of the most dramatic findings to date involve acidification of the oceans as they absorb more of the atmosphere's growing load of carbon dioxide.

"Ocean acidification is detectable and underway," says Marion Gehlen, of the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnment, near Paris.

Acidification undermines the ability of certain plankton species to grow shells. These tiny creatures support the entire ocean food web and help consume and sink much of the oceans' carbon dioxide content. Harmful plankton species will replace beneficial varieties in some areas.

A lower pH means higher acidity. The measuring scale is logarithmic, which means even a small numerical difference represents a major change in pH.

The average pH of ocean surface waters is already 0.1 units (30%) lower than in pre-industrial times and a decrease by 0.4 (120%) units

Contact: Terry Collins
Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ)

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