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Human-induced climate change has led to severe consequences around the world, like sea levels are rising, glaciers are melting, and temperatures are rising, and now apparently, the world’s ocean is developing amnesia. According to a recent report published in Science Advances, the ocean is losing its memory due to global warming. This data was received using future projections from the latest generation of Earth System Models. Researchers warn that the ocean will continue to lose memory annually as greenhouse gas emissions increase.
Unlike the weather, which can fluctuate rapidly and easily every day, the Earth’s ocean generally goes through minute and slight changes throughout the week. This persistence is known as ‘memory’- meaning the temperature of the ocean tomorrow will look much like it does today, with only a few changes.
Ocean memory is linked to the thickness of the ocean’s top mixed layer. Just like a thick mattress provides better cushioning. Similarly, a thick top sea layer provides for a much better memory because of the thermal inertia at play. As global warming and the ocean’s temperature rise, the ocean’s top mixed layer thins out. Like a thinning mattress, the support or the year-to-year’ memory’ thins out and weakens.
Hui Shi, the lead author and researcher at the Farallon Institute in Petaluma, California, stated that the discovery of this event took place while examining the similarity in ocean surface temperatures from one year to the next year to measure ocean memory. According to Robert Jnglin Wills, Researcher scientist at the University of Washington, while changes in ocean currents and energy exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere contribute to alterations in ocean memory, the shoaling of mixed layer depth and the subsequent decline in ocean memory occurring all around the world makes it a crucial factor to consider for climate predictions in the future.
Using Earth System Models, experts have predicted the decline in ocean memory worldwide by the end of the 21st century. The system models warn that regions will expect an ocean memory decline of up to 100 percent during that time. The ocean losing its memory due to global warming can significantly affect the management system of sensitive ecosystems. Marine populations could be affected as conditions and stable marine environments become unreliable. According to the US Climate Variability and Predictability Program, human-induced climate change and global warming will only continue to drive such conditions.