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Random Thoughts About the Ocean

When I think about oceans, I think about the fact that Earth is mostly water. A good portion of that is salt water, and it all stems from our oceans. The biggest of these oceans is the Pacific, whose oscillations play a major role in what happens to the weather. Oceans provide us with food, weather, and oxygen.

Earth's oceans are very important.

Did you know that oceans help control the temperature on Earth? That’s right. There is something called the thermohaline cycle that runs all over the world, in all oceans. The famous Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean is a part of it, and it’s the sole reason why places like the British Isles are so warm for their location.


There is a problem, though. At the moment the Earth is warming and it is melting the polar ice caps. Large amounts of cold, mostly fresh water are pouring into our oceans and unbalancing the careful rhythm of the thermohaline cycle. Some scientists predict that the Atlantic portion of the cycle will stall as early as 2025, including the Gulf Stream.


So what happens if the thermohaline cycle stalls? It’s not the first time it’s happened. Back in the Medieval times, temperatures on the planet rose to similar levels as they are today. The polar ice caps melted and flooded the oceans with cold, fresh water, causing the thermohaline cycle to stall. This led to something known as the Little Ice Age.


The effects of the Little Ice Age weren’t an apocalypse, but they did lead to some drastic changes on the planet. Weather was more intense, especially in the winter, and some towns in Switzerland had to move because glaciers overtook them. There were some crop failures, and diseases such as cholera thrived in the colder weather.


What would a Little Ice Age mean today? Well, more intense winter weather, for sure. The possible growth of glaciers in the mountains. Some possible food shortages due to severe weather. However, there are a lot of things today that were not happening in the time of the Little Ice Age. This includes the growth of technology to help us survive the weather extremes. Also, with the amount of greenhouse gases flowing into the atmosphere, the intensity of a Little Ice Age is hard to forecast.


There is a lot about the climate that we still don’t understand. For example, we are pretty sure of the series of circumstances that led to the Little Ice Age, but not the Medieval Climate Anomaly. What caused the Earth to heat up back then, because the human population and industrial activity of the time didn’t produce enough pollution to affect the atmosphere?


Does this not understanding mean we don’t have to worry about climate change or pollution? No, quite the opposite. We don’t understand everything that goes on with climate change, but we do know enough to know the function of greenhouse gases. Furthermore, the planet has not seen such a rapid rise in temperatures before and ecosystems and other Earth systems are having a hard time adjusting. We are already seeing the effects in severe weather events, increased droughts and famines, and the decline of endangered species. Don’t think that the packages in your grocery store shrinking is all about profit growth. Farming is getting more difficult.


There was a shortage during Covid times that was not caused by the pandemic. In Nebraska, a large hailstorm of unusual proportions wiped out an essential wheat crop, causing food shortages at the grocery store. There have been events like this all over the world, and they are directly linked to the effects of climate change and pollution. And, as you can imagine, they effect your purchasing decisions.


It will do us no harm to stop producing so much pollution, and there are proven benefits to reducing our emissions. It will do us a lot of harm to continue polluting, endangering ecosystems, and otherwise being jerks to the environment.


Do I think that climate change is going to lead to an apocalypse, as some sources claim? No, I don’t. I think this is an exaggeration put out there by well-meaning environmentalists who think it is helping their cause. (It’s not, by the way.) However, things are going to get more difficult. I’ll give you an example. The summer of 2016 was unusually hot where I live. It was so hot, in fact, that one week the UPS routes shut down because it was too dangerous to send out trucks. Such events are going to become more frequent with climate change.


Climate change is also killing people. Staying on the subject of UPS, there was a truck driver in Texas who died of heat stroke on his route last year. Heat and drought are the two must deadly natural phenomena on the planet, and they are both forecast to increase as climate change progresses.


Back to our oceans, they are being affected by carbon emissions, too. The ENSO cycle, the one that brings El Nino and La Nina, has been changing due to the alteration of heating and cooling cycles in the water. This is why we have been seeing more El Nino and La Nina events in this country. Normally they cycle every seven years. Recently, it seems like we are in either one or the other, with no normal years.


The ENSO cycle plays a major role in climate regulation here in North America. During El Nino years, it is unusually wet in the American Southwest and dry in the Pacific Northwest. In La Nina years, the opposite is true. This affects not only the weather, but the water and the fire seasons. This also has far reaching effects on the hurricane season in the South and the tornadoes of the Midwest. Everything is within reach of ENSO. All these changes are due to alterations in the warm or cold waters off the coast of South America. (You can Google ENSO for more information.)


Carbon emissions are also raining down on our oceans, causing carbonic acid to raise in the waters. This acidification of our oceans is leading to the desiccation of coral reefs around the world, as well as the extinction of several oceanic species.


The biggest worry (and probably the scariest) is the possible die-off of vital plankton in our ocean waters. This plankton is a major source of oxygen on the planet, as well as a food source for both people and animals. If they are allowed to go extinct, or the population reduces dramatically, we are all in trouble, and it won’t matter how many trees you plant on land.


Our oceans get enough grief. Radioactive plumes in the water off Japan. The massive garbage patch that still grows in the Pacific. Overfishing of various species. Whaling. Dolphins getting caught in fishing nets. None of this stuff has gone away. Do we have to add climate change and carbon rain on top of it?


Oceans are getting their revenge, though. One of the consistent things listed in the ever-changing IPCC report is sea level rise. This is caused both by the melt of ice caps as well as the thermal expansion of water in the warmer temperatures. Perhaps you think this is a problem of the far future. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not. A town in Virginia has already been condemned by the ocean flooding in where it didn’t used to reach. This is happening today!


Entire countries are being wiped off the map by sea level rise. Some consist of islands that barely peek over the surface of the ocean. Now they are seriously threatened. Negotiations are actually being made with other countries to allow these nations to evacuate to new land in the future. If you think the refugee crisis is bad in a time of war, you haven’t seen anything yet.


Don’t think this is the only way the ocean is getting us back, either. Just look at the parade of hurricanes, nor’easters, and other severe storms that have come in over the recent years. They are only made worse by that sea level rise, allowing storm surges to travel farther and higher.


It is a myth that there are going to be more hurricanes due to climate change. Actually, since hurricanes feed on the differential of hot and cold, there will be fewer storms. That being said, the storms that you will get are going to be monster fours and fives. These huge storms will bring with them winds almost reaching 200 miles per hour, massive storm surges, flooding, and other nasties.


So yeah, we need to stop contributing to climate change and rein in our pollution. We don’t completely understand this planet’s climate regulation, but we know enough to know that we are being inconsiderate jerks.


There is a Hawaiian legend that say you should never turn your back on the ocean. This likely stems from the fact that when you turn your back on the ocean, sneaker waves will occasionally come up and soak you. But there is more to it than that. You need to give the ocean the respect is deserves, and this includes not overfishing it, polluting it, and otherwise making life hard. The ocean is our lifeblood and we need to appreciate that and act accordingly.


I don’t have a whole lot more to say. Our oceans are probably one of the most important things on the planet and have a lot to do with the weather regulation of the rest of it. We are doing things to disrupt the vital cycles of this major system of the planet, and we are suffering as a result. In our quest to save the air, we are neglecting the important services of the Earth’s oceans.


Any good doctor can tell you that treating the whole body is better than treating just a part of it. You cannot neglect the Earth’s heart in favor of its lungs. Every system, whether it be the atmosphere, the oceans, or some land ecosystem, needs to be considered as we treat this condition that we caused in the first place. Remember our oceans, lest someday they remind us of why they are important.

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