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Ocean's harmful low-oxygen zones growing, are sensitive to small changes in climate
Date:6/17/2011

n distribution has changed over the past half century. The researchers tested their predictions using observations made over the last several decades, specifically targeting areas where oxygen concentration is already low, because marine life in these areas will feel the changes most quickly.

How would rising global temperatures affect these low-oxygen environments?

As temperature increases, less oxygen leaves the atmosphere to dissolve in the ocean, Deutsch explained. Additionally, the shallower levels of the ocean heat up and become more buoyant, slowing the oxygen circulation to lower layers.

"In the case of a global temperature increase, we expect that low-oxygen regions will grow in size, similar to what happened at the end of the last ice age 30,000 years ago," Deutsch said. "Since these regions change greatly in size from decade to decade due to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, more data is required before we can recognize an overall trend.

"Global warming will almost certainly influence the amount of oxygen in the ocean, but we expect it to be a slow effect that takes place over long periods of time," he added. "There are huge changes in the volume of this low-oxygen water, but the changes oscillate in a natural cycle instead of a persistent growth as many expected. Oxygen comes and goes in the ocean in a way that is not attributable to the long-term warming of the planet. Instead, it is part of the natural rhythm of the ocean."


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Contact: Kim DeRose
kderose@support.ucla.edu
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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