World Oceans Day: New study finds deep ocean waters warming at a faster pace

Deep ocean waters warming at faster pace, new study finds
Deep ocean waters warming at faster pace, new... 03:04

Oceans make up 70% of the planet, and provide 97% of the Earth's water. They're also the planet's epicenter for climate change.

"The oceans are actually absorbing about a third of the carbon dioxide that we are releasing," said Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana's chief policy officer for North America.  "They are doing us this huge service, because climate change would actually be worse than it is today if it weren't for the oceans. But that service that they are providing us is also making it sick."

Carbon dioxide can actually change the chemistry of the water. "That is actually not so good for marine animals," Savitz said. "Some of the water expansion and the melting of ice caps is also leading to sea level rise, which causes problems especially for coastal communities. So, there are a number of different ways in which climate change is impacting the oceans."

But one of the main impacts is the warming of waters — and not just ocean surfaces. A new international study found deep oceans are warming at a faster pace, which could accelerate even more in the coming decades.

The study has been published in Nature Climate Change.

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The absorption of carbon dioxide by the planet's oceans is increasing, with warming temperatures forcing some marine species to migrate. CBS News

"In the best case scenario, it's about seven times faster than the surface," said the study's lead author, Issac Brito-Morales of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. "The deep ocean and biodiversity below the surface of the ocean, no matter what we do, it's going to be impacted by climate change."

Species, like black sea bass, are already heading towards cooler water. However, those migrations come with their own set of consequences.

"When you say that this will affect marine life, it seems inevitable that that will eventually affect us?" asked "Sunday Morning" producer Sara Kugel.

"We depend on the oceans for so many things," said Savitz. "We depend on the oceans for food, we depend on them for transportation, we depend on the oceans for storm protection, we depend on the oceans for our economies. And when things get thrown off in the ocean, all of those dependencies can be affected. There's a lot of financial, economic, real-time impacts on humans when the oceans are affected."

In fact, last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted lobsters and scallops — two of the most valuable species — will be forced to migrate to cooler waters, away from their current habitats.

Savitz said this information should inspire change, especially today.

"On World Oceans Day, I think the important thing is to be optimistic," she said. "People are recognizing that it affects their communities, and their businesses and their towns. Our message is be hopeful, and let's try to make some changes that matter to the oceans."

      
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Story produced by Sara Kugel and Roman Feeser.