The latest report from the Copernicus Marine Service has revealed evidence on how the Earth’s oceans are rapidly changing and how this is leading to rising sea levels, ocean warming, ocean acidification, ocean de-oxygenation, sea ice loss and fish migration.
Using satellite data, in-situ measurements and models, the fifth edition of the Copernicus Ocean State Report offers a comprehensive overview of the current state, natural variations and ongoing changes in both the global ocean and European regional seas. Written by more than 150 scientists from over 30 renowned European institutions, it is meant to act as a reference for the scientific community, national and international bodies, decision makers and the general public.
Key highlights of the Ocean State Report include:
- Ocean warming and melting land ice is causing sea levels to rise by 3.1mm per year.
- Arctic sea ice extent is steadily decreasing; between 1979 and 2020, it lost an equivalent in area of sea ice to about six times the size of Germany.
- Extreme variability from cold-spells and marine heatwaves in the North Sea are linked to changes in catches of sole, European lobster, sea bass, red mullet and edible crabs.
- Pollution from land-based activities such as farming and industry is causing ocean eutrophication, affecting delicate ecosystems.
- Ocean warming and salinity increases have intensified in the Mediterranean in the past decade.
- Arctic Ocean warming estimated to contribute nearly 4% to global ocean warming.
The report focuses on key ocean monitoring indicators to track how the ocean is changing, and analyses the impact of these changes. In addition, the report includes sections on ocean governance and the development of new tools and technologies for ocean monitoring, like a new satellite-derived plankton-to-fish index, supporting ocean management and fisheries, or a forecasting system for jellyfish in the Mediterranean Sea. The ocean indicators are grouped into three sets: the ocean’s physical state (Blue Ocean), the ocean’s biological and biochemical state (Green Ocean) and the lifecycle of floating ice in polar regions (White Ocean).
The report also reveals that Arctic sea ice remains well below average and is declining at an alarming pace. Over the past 30 years, Arctic sea ice has decreased steadily in extent and thickness. Since 1979, the ice cover for September (the summer low) has reduced by 12.89% per decade, with record lows in the last two years. Continued Arctic sea ice loss could contribute to further regional warming, erosion of Arctic coastlines and changes in global weather patterns.
Karina von Schuckmann, oceanographer at the Copernicus Marine Service and chair of the Ocean State Report, commented, “Climate change, pollution and overexploitation have created unprecedented pressure on the ocean, which not only makes up 71% of the Earth’s surface but is also responsible for regulating Earth’s climate and sustaining life. Accurate and timely monitoring and reporting is crucial for understanding the ocean so we can adapt to its changes. The Ocean State Report provides simple and easy to understand parameters to assess the state of the ocean, how it varies and how it changes. It also highlights the necessity of governance to help us all work together to reduce harmful effects and adapt to protect this most precious resource and its ecosystems.”