Study: Ocean ventilation and deoxygenation in a warming world (2017)

Published On: January 8, 2017

Discussion meeting issue “Ocean ventilation and deoxygenation in a warming […]

Discussion meeting issue “Ocean ventilation and deoxygenation in a warming world” compiled and edited by John Shepherd, Peter Brewer, Andreas Oschlies and Andrew Watson


Royal Society: Changes of ocean ventilation rates and deoxygenation are two of the less obvious but important indirect impacts expected as a result of climate change on the oceans.

They are expected to occur because of (i) the effects of increased stratification on ocean circulation and hence its ventilation, due to reduced upwelling, deep-water formation and turbulent mixing, (ii) reduced oxygenation through decreased oxygen solubility at higher surface temperature, and (iii) the effects of warming on biological production, respiration and remineralization.

The potential socio-economic consequences of reduced oxygen levels on fisheries and ecosystems may be far-reaching and significant. At a Royal Society Discussion Meeting convened to discuss these matters, 12 oral presentations and 23 posters were presented, covering a wide range of the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the issue.

Overall, it appears that there are still considerable discrepancies between the observations and model simulations of the relevant processes. Our current understanding of both the causes and consequences of reduced oxygen in the ocean, and our ability to represent them in models are therefore inadequate, and the reasons for this remain unclear.

It is too early to say whether or not the socio-economic consequences are likely to be serious.

However, the consequences are ecologically, biogeochemically and climatically potentially very significant, and further research on these indirect impacts of climate change via reduced ventilation and oxygenation of the oceans should be accorded a high priority.

Ralph Keeling reviewed the study.


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