How Climate Change is Affecting our Oceans

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An international research team including researchers from CNRS, Sorbonne University and Ifremer has demonstrated that the ocean is increasingly moving towards stabilization.

The ocean is dynamic in nature, which gives it a fundamental role as a global thermostat mitigating global warming. However, in response to climate change, the ocean has been increasingly stabilizing over the past 50 years, at a rate six times greater than previously estimated. This has been shown by a study conducted by researchers from CNRS, Sorbonne University, and Ifremer as part of an international collaboration1 .

Warming waters, melting glaciers and disrupted precipitation form a layer on the ocean surface that decouples from the deep ocean: like water on oil, this separation limits ocean mixing and makes it more difficult for the ocean to mitigate climate change.

In addition, climate change is causing winds to intensify, which has thickened the surface layer of the ocean by 5-10 meters per decade for the past 50 years, making it more difficult for the majority of marine biodiversity living in this layer to gain vital access to light.

Published on March 24, 2021 in Nature , this work highlights the consequences of climate change and human activities on the ocean and marine life, as well as the future ability of the ocean to play its role as a global thermostat.

1 The French laboratories involved are the Laboratoire d’océanographie et du climat: expérimentations et approches numériques (CNRS/IRD/MNHN/Sorbonne University) and the Laboratoire d’océanographie physique et spatiale (CNRS/Ifremer/IRD/Université de Bretagne occidentale).


Summertime increases in upper ocean stratification and mixed layer depth. Sallée J.B., Pellichero V., Akhoudas C., Pauthenet E., Vignes L., Schmidtko S., Naveira Garabato A., Sutherland P. and Kuusela M. Nature, March 24, 2021


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