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expert reaction to the fifth Ocean State Report

A report, published by Copernicus Marine Service, looked at the state of the world’s oceans.


Prof Andrew Shepherd, Professor of Earth Observation at the University of Leeds, said:

“Our planet is losing over a trillion tons of ice each year, and even though the polar regions are remote we feel their losses because they disturb the oceans that surround us. Whether it’s rising sea levels driving more frequent coastal flooding, or reduced sea ice cover altering global weather patterns, we are increasingly vulnerable to these changes. The good news is that there is no doubt that these changes are underway; the challenge is to act in order to avoid further disruption to our lives and livelihoods.”


Dr Sarah Wakelin, co-author of the Ocean State Report and research scientist at the National Oceanography Centre, said:

“Short-term variability in ocean temperatures in the form of heatwaves or cold spells, lasting from days to a few weeks, is an issue of increasing concern in the marine environment, which can affect many aspects of marine ecosystems. The Ocean State Report highlights how extreme temperatures in the North Sea have caused a change in the catches of commercially important fish and shellfish species, such as sole, sea bass, European lobster, red mullet and edible crab. Wider aspects such as migration to warmer or cooler waters, changes to spawning and growth as well as behavioural changes and mortality mean that, in response to temperature extremes, landings of some species increase whilst landings of other species will be reduced.”


Dr Angela Hibbert, Head of Sea Level and Ocean Climate at the National Oceanography Centre, said:

“Like the recently published IPCC, the Ocean State Report indicates that recent annual rates of global mean sea level rise have exceeded 3mm per year, which is higher than was observed in the 20th Century and suggests an acceleration in rates of sea level rise. When high tides and large storm surges coincide, they are more likely to result in more damaging coastal flooding, especially if mean sea level is also elevated. Increasing warming and ice mass loss from glaciers and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica will also cause these rises to continue. Therefore, events such as the Venetian ‘Acqua Alta’ highlighted in this report are likely to become increasingly common as sea levels continue to rise.”


Dr Alex Arnall, environmental researcher at the University of Reading, said:

“Although often thought of as a future problem, this report provides further evidence of the impacts that climate change is producing on our oceans in the present-day. The changes in sea level that we are seeing mean that coastal communities around the world, including in the UK, are being increasingly affected by coastal erosion and flooding.

“As a result, national and local governments will increasingly face difficult decisions on which communities and properties they can afford to protect through installation of coastal defence systems and which they will eventually have to abandon to the sea.”


Dr Matt Palmer, Lead Scientist for Sea Level at the Met Office Hadley Centre, and Associate Professor at the University of Bristol, said:

“Ongoing monitoring of the global and regional ocean is fundamental to understanding the trajectory of global climate change and how these changes are affecting society. Sea levels are rising globally and throughout the European seas, contributing to more frequent coastal flooding, such as the ‘Acqua Alta’ events in Venice during 2019. Ocean observations are critical for improving climate modelling capability and understanding key processes in order to develop robust information for decision makers on future climate change.”


Declared interests

None received.

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