skip to main content


Title: Threat by marine heatwaves to adaptive large marine ecosystems in an eddy-resolving model
Abstract Marine heatwaves (MHWs), episodic periods of abnormally high sea surface temperature, severely affect marine ecosystems. Large marine ecosystems (LMEs) cover ~22% of the global ocean but account for 95% of global fisheries catches. Yet how climate change affects MHWs over LMEs remains unknown because such LMEs are confined to the coast where low-resolution climate models are known to have biases. Here, using a high-resolution Earth system model and applying a ‘future threshold’ that considers MHWs as anomalous warming above the long-term mean warming of sea surface temperatures, we find that future intensity and annual days of MHWs over the majority of the LMEs remain higher than in the present-day climate. Better resolution of ocean mesoscale eddies enables simulation of more realistic MHWs than low-resolution models. These increases in MHWs under global warming pose a serious threat to LMEs, even if resident organisms could adapt fully to the long-term mean warming.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2022874
NSF-PAR ID:
10348379
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nature Climate Change
Volume:
12
Issue:
2
ISSN:
1758-678X
Page Range / eLocation ID:
179 to 186
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Ocean warming ‘hotspots’ are regions characterized by above‐average temperature increases over recent years, for which there are significant consequences for both living marine resources and the societies that depend on them. As such, they represent early warning systems for understanding the impacts of marine climate change, and test‐beds for developing adaptation options for coping with those impacts. Here, we examine five hotspots off the coasts of eastern Australia, South Africa, Madagascar, India and Brazil. These particular hotspots have underpinned a large international partnership that is working towards improving community adaptation by characterizing, assessing and projecting the likely future of coastal‐marine food resources through the provision and sharing of knowledge. To inform this effort, we employ a high‐resolution global ocean model forced by Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and simulated to year 2099. In addition to the sea surface temperature, we analyse projected stratification, nutrient supply, primary production, anthropogenicCO2‐driven ocean acidification, deoxygenation and ocean circulation. Our simulation finds that the temperature‐defined hotspots studied here will continue to experience warming but, with the exception of eastern Australia, may not remain the fastest warming ocean areas over the next century as the strongest warming is projected to occur in the subpolar and polar areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Additionally, we find that recent rapid change inSSTis not necessarily an indicator that these areas are also hotspots of the other climatic stressors examined. However, a consistent facet of the hotspots studied here is that they are all strongly influenced by ocean circulation, which has already shown changes in the recent past and is projected to undergo further strong change into the future. In addition to the fast warming, change in local ocean circulation represents a distinct feature of present and future climate change impacting marine ecosystems in these areas.

     
    more » « less
  2. Keynote points • Thermal expansion from a warming ocean and land ice melt are the main causes of the accelerating global rise in the mean sea level. • Global warming is also affecting many circulation systems. The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation has already weakened and will most likely continue to do so in the future. The impacts of ocean circulation changes include a regional rise in sea levels, changes in the nutrient distribution and carbon uptake of the ocean and feedbacks with the atmosphere, such as altering the distribution of precipitation. • More than 90 per cent of the heat from global warming is stored in the global ocean. Oceans have exhibited robust warming since the 1950s from the surface to a depth of 2,000 m. The proportion of ocean heat content has more than doubled since the 1990s compared with long-term trends. Ocean warming can be seen in most of the global ocean, with a few regions exhibiting long-term cooling. • The ocean shows a marked pattern of salinity changes in multidecadal observations, with surface and subsurface patterns providing clear evidence of a water cycle amplification over the ocean. That is manifested in enhanced salinities in the near-surface, high-salinity subtropical regions and freshening in the low-salinity regions such as the West Pacific Warm Pool and the poles. • An increase in atmospheric CO2 levels, and a subsequent increase in carbon in the oceans, has changed the chemistry of the oceans to include changes to pH and aragonite saturation. A more carbon-enriched marine environment, especially when coupled with other environmental stressors, has been demonstrated through field studies and experiments to have negative impacts on a wide range of organisms, in particular those that form calcium carbonate shells, and alter biodiversity and ecosystem structure. • Decades of oxygen observations allow for robust trend analyses. Long-term measurements have shown decreases in dissolved oxygen concentrations for most ocean regions and the expansion of oxygen-depleted zones. A temperature-driven solubility decrease is responsible for most near-surface oxygen loss, though oxygen decrease is not limited to the upper ocean and is present throughout the water column in many areas. • Total sea ice extent has been declining rapidly in the Arctic, but trends are insignificant in the Antarctic. In the Arctic, the summer trends are most striking in the Pacific sector of the Arctic Ocean, while, in the Antarctic, the summer trends show increases in the Weddell Sea and decreases in the West Antarctic sector of the Southern Ocean. Variations in sea ice extent result from changes in wind and ocean currents. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract Marine heatwaves (MHWs)—extremely warm, persistent sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies causing substantial ecological and economic consequences—have increased worldwide in recent decades. Concurrent increases in global temperatures suggest that climate change impacted MHW occurrences, beyond random changes arising from natural internal variability. Moreover, the long-term SST warming trend was not constant but instead had more rapid warming in recent decades. Here we show that this nonlinear trend can—on its own—appear to increase SST variance and hence MHW frequency. Using a Linear Inverse Model to separate climate change contributions to SST means and internal variability, both in observations and CMIP6 historical simulations, we find that most MHW increases resulted from regional mean climate trends that alone increased the probability of SSTs exceeding a MHW threshold. Our results suggest the need to carefully attribute global warming-induced changes in climate extremes, which may not always reflect underlying changes in variability. 
    more » « less
  4. Under future climate scenarios, ocean temperatures that are presently extreme and qualify as marine heatwaves (MHW) are forecasted to increase in frequency and intensity, but little is known about the impact of these events on one of the most common paleoproxies, planktonic foraminifera. Planktonic foraminifera are globally ubiquitous, shelled marine protists. Their abundances and geochemistry vary with ocean conditions and fossil specimens are commonly used to reconstruct ancient ocean conditions. Planktonic foraminiferal assemblages are known to vary globally with sea surface temperature, primary productivity, and other hydrographic conditions, but have not been studied in the context of mid-latitude MHWs. For this study, the community composition and abundance of planktonic foraminifera were quantified for 2010-2019 along the Newport Hydrographic Line, a long-term monitoring transect at 44.6°N in the Northern California Current (NCC). Samples were obtained from archived plankton tows spanning 46 to 370 km offshore during annual autumn (August – October) cruises. Two MHWs impacted the region during this timeframe: the first during 2014-2016 and a second, shorter duration MHW in 2019. During the 2014-2016 MHW, warm water subtropical and tropical foraminifera species were more prevalent than the typical polar, subpolar, and transitional species common to this region. Cold water species were abundant again after the first MHW dissipated in late 2016. During the second, shorter-duration MHW in 2019, the assemblage consisted of a warm water assemblage but did not include tropical species. The foraminiferal assemblage variability correlated with changes in temperature and salinity in the upper 100 meters and was not correlated with distance offshore or upwelling. These results suggest that fossil foraminiferal assemblages from deep sea sediment cores may provide insight into the magnitude and frequency of past MHWs. 
    more » « less
  5. abstract

    The marine coastal region makes up just 10% of the total area of the global ocean but contributes nearly 20% of its total primary production and over 80% of fisheries landings. Unicellular phytoplankton dominate primary production. Climate variability has had impacts on various marine ecosystems, but most sites are just approaching the age at which ecological responses to longer term, unidirectional climate trends might be distinguished. All five marine pelagic sites in the US Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) network are experiencing warming trends in surface air temperature. The marine physical system is responding at all sites with increasing mixed layer temperatures and decreasing depth and with declining sea ice cover at the two polar sites. Their ecological responses are more varied. Some sites show multiple population or ecosystem changes, whereas, at others, changes have not been detected, either because more time is needed or because they are not being measured.

     
    more » « less